A Festival of Nine Lesson and Carols
A Festival of Nine Lesson and Carols is a gift to all people, everywhere, who wish to share in it.
In 2020 it became clear that we should not, in fact, hold the service last Christmas live. These decisions were not taken lightly, but because we took the precaution of recording the service some weeks before Christmas, we were able to offer the world the gift of this service as an experience to be shared on Christmas Eve.
While we hope that Christmas in 2021 will look much more like normal, we won't know this for some time. When the outlook becomes more clear, we will share more information about our plans for Christmas; in the mean time, please do not write to us about attending this year's service.
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was introduced to King's on Christmas Eve 1918 to offer solace to people who were distressed, exhausted, injured and, in many cases, bereaved at the end of the First World War. In this pandemic year many people are experiencing some of these same realities and feelings. But while war gave people a great sense of togetherness and community, the pandemic forces people to be isolated, distanced and anxious.
King's didn't invent A Festival of Nine Lesson and Carols, but when it was introduced here the then Dean, Eric Milner-White, wrote a special prayer to set the scene for the reading of the lessons and singing of the carols. While that 'Bidding Prayer' is largely unchanged from that time, in 2020 we prayed for health as well as peace over the whole earth and to remember the isolated as well as the lonely and unloved. Alongside prayer for the oppressed, we prayed too for the exploited and the abused.
The ninth reading at our service concludes with this great declaration, 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth'. The whole service leads us towards this great sentence: a sentence that invites us to remember that the one who created us does not stand aloof from our suffering, but shares it with us and somehow transforms it into peace of heart and mind, and an attitude of kindness towards others.
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service on 24 December at 3pm (10:00 EST or 07:00 PST). The service is also broadcast at 1pm on Radio 3 on Christmas Day, and at various times on the BBC World Service.
In the United States the service is distributed by American Public Media and is broadcast by around 450 radio stations, including Minnesota Public Radio and WQXR in New York. As there is no list of radio stations that are broadcasting the service it's best to contact your local stations or check their online listings.