Festival of Nine Carols and Lessons

Christmas Eve

The Bidding 

Beloved in Christ, as we prepare for Christmastide, let it be our care and delight to hear the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger. 

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child. 

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this city. 

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love. 

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are for ever one. 

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us: 

And now, as our Savior Christ hath taught us, we are bold to say…

Our Father, who art in heaven,

        hallowed be thy Name, 

        thy kingdom come, 

        thy will be done, 

        on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. 

And forgive us our trespasses, 

        as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation, 

        but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, 

        for ever and ever. Amen. 

The Almighty God bless us with his grace; Christ give us the joys of everlasting life, and unto the fellowship of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us all. Amen

The Collect

O GOD, Who dost gladden us with the yearly expectation of our redemption: Grant that we, who with joy receive Thine only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may without fear behold Him when He shall come to be our Judge, even Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ; Who liveth. Amen.


Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God: have mercy on us. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Have mercy upon us. Alleluia! Alleluia!

1st Reading: Genesis 3:8-15

God announces in the Garden of Eden that the seed of woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.

 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,

    cursed are you above all livestock

    and above all beasts of the field;

on your belly you shall go,

    and dust you shall eat

    all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

    and between your offspring and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,

    and you shall bruise his heel.”


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

1st Carol

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”


1 O come, O come, Immanuel,

and ransom captive Israel

that mourns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel

shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,

who ordered all things mightily;

to us the path of knowledge show

and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,

who to your tribes on Sinai’s height

in ancient times did give the law

in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,

unto your own and rescue them!

From depths of hell your people save,

and give them victory o’er the grave. Refrain

5 O come, O Key of David, come

and open wide our heavenly home.

Make safe for us the heavenward road

and bar the way to death’s abode. Refrain

6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,

and bring us comfort from afar!

Dispel the shadows of the night

and turn our darkness into light. Refrain

7 O come, O King of nations, bind

in one the hearts of all mankind.

Bid all our sad divisions cease

and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain  [1]

The Descendants of Abraham


O Jerusalem and Judah, fear not, tomorrow go ye forth: and the Lord will be with you. Alleluia! Alleluia!

2nd Reading: Genesis 22:15-18

God promises to faithful Abraham that in his seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed.

 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven  and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,  I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,  and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

2nd Carol 

“Angels, from the realms of glory”

(By James Montgomery)


1. Angels, from the realms of glory,

wing your flight o’er all the earth;

ye, who sang creation’s story,

now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

come and worship, come and worship

worship Christ, the new-born King.

2. Shepherds in the field abiding,

watching o’er your flocks by night,

God with man is now residing,

yonder shines the infant Light:

come and worship, come and worship

worship Christ, the new-born King.

3. Sages, leave your contemplations;

brighter visions beam afar;

seek the great Desire of nations;

ye have seen his natal star:

come and worship, come and worship

worship Christ, the new-born King.

4. Saints before the altar bending,

watching long in hope and fear,

suddenly the Lord, descending,

in his temple shall appear:

come and worship, come and worship

worship Christ, the new-born King. [2]

“Birth of Jesus”


Tomorrow shall the wickedness of the earth be done away. 

And the Saviour of the world shall be king over us. Alleluia! Alleluia!

3rd Reading: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 

Christ’s birth and kingdom are foretold by Isaiah.

The people who walked in darkness

    have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

    on them has light shone.

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

    and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

    there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

    to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

    from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

3rd Carol

“Infant holy, infant lowly” 

By Piotrowi Skardze


1 Infant holy, infant lowly,

for his bed a cattle stall;

oxen lowing, little knowing

Christ the babe is Lord of all.

Swiftly winging angels singing,

bells are ringing, tidings bringing:

Christ the babe is Lord of all!

Christ the babe is Lord of all!

2 Flocks were sleeping; shepherds keeping

vigil till the morning new

saw the glory, heard the story,

tidings of a gospel true.

Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,

praises voicing, greet the morrow:

Christ the babe was born for you!

Christ the babe was born for you! [3]

“The Star of Bethlehem”


Tomorrow shall ye have help: saith the Lord God of Hosts. Alleluia! Alleluia!

4th Reading: Isaiah 11:1-9 

The Peace that Christ will bring is foreshown.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,

    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and might,

    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

    or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,

    and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

    and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;

    and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

    their young shall lie down together;

    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,

    and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt or destroy

    in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

    as the waters cover the sea.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

4th Carol

“Let all mortal flesh keep silent”


1 Let all mortal flesh keep silence,

and with fear and trembling stand.

Ponder nothing earthly minded,

for with blessing in his hand

Christ our God to earth descending

comes, our homage to demand.

2 King of kings, yet born of Mary,

as of old on earth he stood,

Lord of heaven now incarnate

in the body and the blood,

he will give to all the faithful

his own self for heav’nly food.

3 Rank on rank the host of heaven

streams before him on the way,

as the Light of light descending

from the realms of endless day

comes, that pow’rs of hell may vanish,

as the shadows pass away.

4 At his feet the six-winged seraph,

cherubim with sleepless eye,

veil their faces to the Presence,

as with ceaseless voice they cry,

“Alleluia! Alleluia!

Alleluia, Lord Most High!” [4]

“The Annunciation” 
by Murillo, 1655–1660, 
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg


When Mary the Mother of Jesus was espoused unto Joseph, before they came together she was found with child: for That which was conceived in her was of the Holy Ghost. Alleluia! Alleluia!

5th Reading: Luke 1:26-38 

The angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

5th Carol

“Ave Maria”



Ave Maria

Gratia plena

Maria, gratia plena

Maria, gratia plena

Ave, ave dominus

Dominus tecum

Benedicta tu in mulieribus

Et benedictus

Et benedictus fructus ventris

Ventris tuae, Jesus.

Ave Maria

Ave Maria

Mater Dei

Ora pro nobis peccatoribus

Ora pro nobis

Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus

Nunc et in hora mortis

Et in hora mortis nostrae

Et in hora mortis nostrae

Et in hora mortis nostrae

Ave Maria [5]

“The Nativity” 
By Arthur Hughes 


There is no rose of such virtue, 

As is the rose that bore Jesus. Alleluia! Alleluia!

6th Reading: Luke 2:1-7 

Saint Luke tells of the birth of Jesus.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

6th Carol

“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,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

Christ the Saviour is born,

Christ the Saviour is born.

Silent night, holy night!

Son of God love’s pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth. [6]

“Nativity Shepherds” 
By Darren Gygi 


Ye shall know this day that the Lord will come: and in the morning shall ye see His glory. Alleluia! Alleluia! 

7th Reading: Luke 2:8-16 

The shepherds go to the manger.

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

7th Carol

“Angels we have heard on high”


1 Angels we have heard on high,

singing sweetly through the night,

and the mountains in reply

echoing their brave delight.


Gloria in excelsis Deo,

gloria in excelsis Deo.

2 Shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why these songs of happy cheer?

What great brightness did you see?

What glad tidings did you hear? [Refrain]

3 Come to Bethlehem and see

him whose birth the angels sing.

Come, adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord, the newborn King. [Refrain]

4 See him in a manger laid

whom the angels praise above.

Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,

while we raise our hearts in love. [Refrain] [7]

“This province is called Tarshish, from which came the Three Wise Kings, and they came to Bethlehem in Judaea with their gifts and worshipped Jesus Christ, and they are entombed in the city of Cologne two days journey from Bruges.” ~Catalan Atlas, 1375, fol. V 
(image source)


Stand ye still: Alleluia! Alleluia! 

And see the salvation of the Lord with you. Alleluia! Alleluia!

8th Reading: Matthew 2:1-12 

The Wise Men are led by the star to Jesus.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;  and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

8th Carol

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

By John H. Hopkins


1 We three kings of Orient are; 

bearing gifts we traverse afar, 

field and fountain, moor and mountain, 

following yonder star. 


O star of wonder, star of light, 

star with royal beauty bright, 

westward leading, still proceeding, 

guide us to thy perfect light. 

2 Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, 

gold I bring to crown him again, 

King forever, ceasing never, 

over us all to reign. [Refrain]

3 Frankincense to offer have I; 

incense owns a Deity nigh; 

prayer and praising, voices raising, 

worshiping God on high. [Refrain]

4 Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume 

breathes a life of gathering gloom; 

sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, 

sealed in the stone-cold tomb. [Refrain]

5 Glorious now behold him arise; 

King and God and sacrifice: 

Alleluia, Alleluia, 

sounds through the earth and skies. [Refrain] [8]

The humble birth of Jesus in a manger


The Word of the Lord shall be looked for as rain: and our God shall come down upon us as the dew. Alleluia! Alleluia!

9th Reading: John 1:1-14 

Saint John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)  For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.


Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. 

Thanks be to God!

9th Carol

“Away in a Manger”

By Martin Luther


1 Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,

the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

2 The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,

but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,

and stay by my side until morning is nigh.

3 Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay

close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,

and fit us for heaven to live with thee there. [9]

The Blessing 

CHRIST, who by his incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, grant you the fullness of inward peace and goodwill, and make you partakers of the divine nature; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

The Concluding Prayer of the Church

At the hour of midnight the angels rejoiced at the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us also rejoice in your peace, almighty God; who reigns, now and forever. Amen. [10]

Devotionals compiled/written by S.P. Rogers


[1] Translator: J. M. NealeJohn M. Neale’s life is a study in contrasts: born into an evangelical home, H. (n.d.). O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://hymnary.org/text/o_come_o_come_emmanuel_and_ransom

[2] Montgomery, J. (n.d.). The Hymnal 1982: According to the use of the Episcopal Church 93. Angels, from the realms of glory. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from https://hymnary.org/hymn/EH1982/93

[3] Author (attributed to): Piotrowi Skardze(no biographical information available about Piotrowi Skardze.) Go to person page, & Paraphraser: Edith M. G. Reed(no biographical information available about Edith M. G. Reed.) Go to person page. (n.d.). Infant Holy, Infant Lowly. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://hymnary.org/text/infant_holy_infant_lowly

[4] Paraphraser: Gerard MoultrieMoultrie, G. (n.d.). Let all mortal flesh keep silence. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://hymnary.org/text/let_all_mortal_flesh_keep_silence

[5] Roberts, M. (2020, October 27). What are the lyrics to ‘Ave Maria’, and who wrote it? Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://www.classicfm.com/composers/schubert/ave-maria-schubert-lyrics/

[6] What are the lyrics to Silent Night? (2020, September 15). Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://www.classical-music.com/features/works/silent-night-lyrics/

[7] Angels We Have Heard on High. (n.d.). Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://hymnary.org/text/angels_we_have_heard_on_high

[8] Author: John H. HopkinsJohn Henry Hopkins, J. (n.d.). We three kings of Orient are. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://hymnary.org/text/we_three_kings_of_orient_are

[9] Author (attributed to): Martin LutherLuther, M., Author (st. 1-2): AnonymousIn some hymnals, T., & Author (v. 3, A. (n.d.). Away in a Manger. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://hymnary.org/text/away_in_a_manger_no_crib_for_a_bed

[10] Stratman, P. (2001). Evening Prayers. In Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church (Kindle ed., p. 19). Rossway.

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