Lessons & Carols for Christmas Eve

The traditional Anglican service of lessons and carols is beautiful and meaningful. It interweaves readings, hymns, and anthems. The readings and the music walk through the promise of salvation in the Old Testament in preparation for the coming of Messiah. If you don’t happen to be in a position to take in a service like this one – as it is done at King’s College, Cambridge – then set aside 80 minutes or so to enjoy this version.

This is the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College from 1992. The service lasts about 80 minutes and then is followed by a BBC documentary about the boy’s choir. Below the embedded video you’ll find the order of service, and, further down, the text for each piece.

Order of Service:

1. Hymn: Once in Royal David’s City
2. Opening Words and Prayers
3. Anthem: Up! Good Christian Folk and Listen
4. Reading: Genesis 3: 8-15
5. Anthem: The Truth Sent From Above
6. Reading: Genesis 22: 18-15
7. Anthem: In Dulci Jubilo
8. Reading: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
9. Anthem: Riu, riu, chiu
10. Reading: Isaiah 11: 1-4, 6-9
11. Anthem: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
12. Hymn: The Holly and the Ivy
13. Reading: Luke 1: 26-35
14. Anthem: Joys Seven
15. Reading: Luke 2: 1, 3-7
16. Hymn: Silent Night
17. Hymn: O Little Town of Bethlehem
18. Reading: Luke 2: 8-16
19. Anthem: In the Bleak Mid Winter
20. Anthem: Shepherd’s Pipe Carol
21. Reading Matthew 2: 1-12
22. Hymn: We Three Kings of Orient Are
23. Anthem: Hodie Christus Natus Est
24. Reading: John 1: 1-14
25. Hymn: O Come all ye Faithful
26. Blessings
27. Hymn: Hark! The Herald Angel Sings

“Festival Of Nine Lessons & Carols”
CD by Kings College Choir

Once in Royal David’s City

Once in royal David’s city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and meek and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through all his wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly mother,
In whose gentle arms He lay.
Christian children all should be,
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood’s pattern,
Day by day like us He grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
When like stars His children crowned,
All in white shall be around.

Up! Good Christian Folk and Listen

Ding-dong, ding: Ding-a-dong-a-ding.

Up! good Christian folk, and listen
How the merry church bells ring,
And from steeple bid good people
Come adore the new-born King:
Ding-dong, ding: Ding-a-dong-a-ding.

Tell the story how from glory
God came down at Christmas-tide,
Bringing gladness, chasing sadness,
Showering blessings far and wide,
Ding-dong, ding: Ding-a-dong-a-ding.

Born of mother, blest o’er other,
Ex Maria Virgine,
In a stable (’tis no fable),
Christus natus hodie.
Ding-dong, ding: Ding-a-dong-a-ding.

The Truth Sent From Above

(Some verses omitted in the sung version)

This is the truth sent from above,
The truth of God, the God of love:
Therefore don’t turn me from your door,
But hearken all, both rich and poor.

The first thing which I do relate
Is that God did man create,
The next thing which to you I’ll tell,
Woman was made with man to dwell.

Then, after this, ’twas God’s own choice
To place them both in Paradise,
There to remain, from evil free,
Except they ate of such a tree.

And they did eat, which was a sin,
And thus their ruin did begin.
Ruined themselves, both you and me,
And all of their posterity.

Thus we were heirs to endless woes,
Till God the Lord did interpose,
And so a promise soon did run,
That he would redeem us by his Son.

And at this season of the year
Our blest Redeemer did appear,
And here did live, and here did preach,
and many thousands he did teach.

Thus he in love to us behaved,
To show us how we must be saved;
And if you want to know the way,
Be pleased to hear what he did say:

“Go preach the Gospel,” now he said,
“To all the nations that are made!
And he that does believe on me,
From all his sins I’ll set him free.”

O seek! O seek of God above
That saving faith that works by love!
And, if he’s pleased to grant thee this,
Thou’rt sure to have eternal bliss.

God grant to all within this place
True saving faith, that special grace
Which to his people doth belong:
And thus I close my Christmas song.

In Dulci Jubilo

In dulci jubilo [In quiet joy]
Let us our homage show
Our heart’s joy reclineth
In praesepio [In a manger]
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio [In the mother’s lap]
Alpha es et O. [Thou art Alpha & Omega]

O Jesu parvule [O tiny Jesus]
I yearn for thee alway
Listen to my ditty
O puer optima [O best of boys]
Have pity on me, pity
O princeps gloriae, [Prince of glory]
Trahe me post te. [Draw me unto thee]

O patris caritas [O father’s caring]
O nati lenitas [O newborn’s mildness]
Deeply were we stained
Per nostra crimina [By our crimes]
But thou hast for us gained
Coelorum gaudia [Heavenly joy]
O that we were there.

Ubi sunt gaudia [Where be joys]
If that they be not there
There are angels singing
Nova cantina [New songs]
There the bells are ringing
In regis curia [At the king’s court]
O that we were there.

Riu, riu, chiu

Chorus: Riu riu chiu, la guarda ribera;
Dios guardo el lobo de nuestra cordera.

Riu, riu, chiu,1 the river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf from our lamb

1: El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
Mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
Quisola hazer que no pudiese pecar,
Ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.

The rabid wolf tried to bite her
But God Almighty knew how to defend her
He wished to create her impervious to sin
Nor was this maid to embody original sin

2: Este qu’es nacido es el gran monarca,
Christo patriarca, de carne vestido;
hanos redimido con se hacer chiquito,
a un qu’era infinito, finito se hiziera.

He who’s now begotten is our mighty Monarch
Christ, our Holy Father, in human flesh embodied
He made himself small and so redeemed us:
He who was infinite became finite.

3: Muchas profecias lo han profetizado,
Ya un nuestros dias lo hemos al consado
Adios humanado vemos en el suelo,
Yal hombre nelcielo porquel le quistera.

Many prophecies told of his coming,
And now in our days have we seen them fulfilled.
God became man, on earth we behold him,
And see man in heaven because he so willed.

4: Yo vi mil garzones que andaban cantando,
por aquí volando, haciendo mil sones,
diciendo a gascones: “Gloria sea en el cielo
y paz en el suelo”, pues de sus nasciera.

A thousand singing angels I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exulting, “Glory be in the heavens,
And peace on Earth, for Jesus has been born.”

5: Este viene a dar a los muertos vida
y viene a reparar de todos la caída;
es la luz del día aqueste mozuelo;
este es el cordero que San Juan dixera.

He comes to give life to the dead,
He comes to redeem the fall of man;
This child is the light of day,
He is the very lamb Saint John prophesied.

6: Mira bien queos quadre que ansina lo oyera,
Que Dios no pudiera hacer la mas que madre,
El quera su padre hoy della nascio
Y el que la drio su hijo so dixera.

Behold…
God could call none greater mother
than she who gives birth to her father
and now calls him son.

7: Pues que ya tenemos lo que deseamos,
todos juntos vamos, presentes llevemos;
todos le daremos muestra voluntad,
pues a se igualar con el hombre viniera.

Now we have gotten what we were all desiring,
Go we together to bear him gifts:
Let each give his will to the God who was willing
To come down to Earth man’s equal to be.

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen

Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, [A rose has sprung up,]
aus einer Wurzel zart, [from a tender root,]
wie uns die Alten sungen, [As the old ones sang to us,]
von Jesse kam die Art [Its strain came from Jesse]
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht [And it has brought forth a floweret]
mitten im kalten Winter, [In the middle of the cold winter]
wohl zu der halben Nacht. [Well at half the night.]

Das Röslein, das ich meine, [The little rose that I mean,]
davon Isaias sagt, [Of which Isaiah told]
ist Maria die reine [Is Mary, the pure,]
die uns das Blümlein bracht. [Who brought us the floweret.]
Aus Gottes ew’gem Rat [At God’s eternal counsel]
hat sie ein Kind geboren [She has borne a child]
or: Welches uns selig macht. [or: Who makes us blessed.]

Das Blümelein, so kleine, [The floweret, so small]
das duftet uns so süß, [That smells so sweet to us]
mit seinem hellen Scheine [With its bright gleam]
vertreibt’s die Finsternis. [It dispels the darkness.]
Wahr Mensch und wahrer Gott, [True man and true God,]
hilft uns aus allem Leide, [It helps us from all trouble,]
rettet von Sünd und Tod. [Saves us from sin and death.]

The Holly and the Ivy

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom,
As white as the lily flower,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our sweet Saviour.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to do us sinners good.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a prickle,
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a bark,
As bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

Joys Seven

The very first joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one
To see her blessed Jesus
When He was first her Son.

Chorus:
When He was first Her Son, Good Lord;
And happy may we be,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of two
To see her own son Jesus,
To make the lame to go. Chorus

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of three
To see her own son Jesus,
To make the blind to see. Chorus

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of four
To see her own son Jesus,
To read the Bible o’er. Chorus

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of five
To see her own son Jesus,
To bring the dead alive. Chorus

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of six
To see her own son Jesus,
Upon the Crucifix. Chorus

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of seven
To see her own son Jesus,
To wear the crown of Heaven. Chorus

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the Angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee,
Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching
And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

Shepherd’s Pipe Carol

Going through the hills on a night all starry
On the way to Bethlehem
Far away I heard a shepherd boy piping
On the way to Bethlehem.

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:
“Dance and sing for joy that Christ the newborn King
Is come to bring us peace on earth
And He’s lying cradled there at Bethlehem.”

“Tell me, shepherd boy piping tunes so merrily
On the way to Bethlehem
Who will hear your tunes on these hills so lonely
On the way to Bethlehem?

Angels in the sky brought this message nigh:
“Dance and sing for the joy that Christ the newborn King
Is come to bring peace on earth
And He’s lying cradled there at Bethlehem.”

“None may hear my pipes on these hills so lonely
On the way to Bethlehem;
But a King will hear me play sweet lullabies
When I get to Bethlehem.”

Angels in the sky came down from on high
Hovered over the manger where the babe was lying
Cradled in the arms of his mother Mary
Sleeping now at Bethlehem.

We Three Kings of Orient Are

We Three Kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain,
Moor and mountain,
Following yonder Star.

Chorus:
O Star of Wonder, Star of Night,
Star with Royal Beauty bright,
Westward leading,
Still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect Light.

Born a King on Bethlehem plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King for ever,
Ceasing never
Over us all to reign. Chorus

Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh:
Prayer and praising
All men raising,
Worship Him God on High. Chorus

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;—
Sorrowing, sighing,
Bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb. Chorus

Glorious now behold Him arise,
King, and God, and Sacrifice;
Heav’n sings Hallelujah:
Hallelujah the earth replies. Chorus

Hodie Christus Natus Est

Hodie Christus natus est: [Today Christ is born:]
Hodie Salvator apparuit: [Today the Savior appeared:]
Hodie in terra canunt Angeli, [Today on Earth the Angels sing,]
laetantur Archangeli [Archangels rejoice:]
Hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: [Today the righteous rejoice, saying:]
Gloria in excelsis Deo. [Glory to God in the highest.]
Alleluia.

O Come all ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God, light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
True God, begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God, glory in the highest:
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald-angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald-angels sing
“Glory to the new-born king”

Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald-angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King”

Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings;
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the new-born king”

Lessons & Carols for Christmas Eve
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