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In 1880 E. W. Benson, then Anglican Bishop of Truro, England, composed a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, based on ancient sources, for Christmas Eve. In 1918 it was adapted for the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, by its Dean, Eric Milner–White, who also wrote The Bidding Prayer. The Blessing after The Lord's Prayer, added by Milner–White, was first included in its present form in 1930. The Nine Lessons given here have been customarily used in recent years at King's College. The service has been edited for United Methodist congregations.


PROCESSIONAL HYMN * Once in Royal David's City (UMH 250)


Beloved in Christ,
this Christmas Eve (Day, Season ) it is our duty and delight
to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels,
and to go in heart and mind to Bethlehem,
and see this thing which is come to pass,
and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us hear again from Holy Scripture
the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our sin
until the glorious redemption brought us by this holy Child;
and let us make this house of prayer glad with our carols of praise.

But first, because this of all things would rejoice Jesus' heart,
let us pray to him for the needs of the whole world, and all his people;
for peace upon the earth he came to save;
for love and unity within the one Church he did build;
for goodwill among all peoples.

And particularly at this time let us remember
the poor, the cold, the hungry, the oppressed;
the sick and them that mourn; the lonely and the unloved;
the aged and the little children;
and all 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 all those who rejoice with us,
but upon another shore and in a greater light,
that multitude which no one can number,
whose hope was in the Word made flesh,
and with whom, in this Lord Jesus, we for evermore are one.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the throne of heaven,
in the words that Christ himself has taught us.



The almighty God bless us with divine 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.

CAROL * Of the Father's Love Begotten (UMH 184)

Each lesson should, if possible, be read by a different reader. Each reader should announce the lesson by the descriptive sentence printed. At the end of the lesson, the reader may pause and say, The Word of the Lord, and all may respond, Thanks be to God, or the reader may simply say, Thanks be to God.

FIRST LESSON Genesis 3:8 –15, 17–19

God announces in the Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve's punishment for their rebellion
and that the seed of woman shall bruise the serpent's head.

CAROL Come, Thou Long–Expected Jesus (UMH 196)

SECOND LESSON Genesis 22:15 –18

God promises to Abraham that by his descendants
all the nations of the earth shall obtain blessing.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

211 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (stanzas 1, 2, 4, 7)
116 The God of Abraham Praise (stanzas 1–3)

THIRD LESSON Isaiah 9:2, 6–7

The prophet announces the birth of a king to a people in darkness.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

205 Canticle of Light and Darkness

210 Toda la Tierra (All Earth Is Waiting; stanzas 1, 4)

216 Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming (stanzas 1, 2)

FOURTH LESSON Isaiah 11:1–4a, 6–9 or Micah 5:2 –5a

The king is coming and will usher in a reign of justice for the poor
and peace for all of God's creation.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

216 Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

210 Toda la Tierra (All Earth Is Waiting)

230 O Little Town of Bethlehem

FIFTH LESSON Luke 1:26 –35, 38

The angel Gabriel announces to the virgin Mary
that she will give birth to God's promised Son
whose kingdom shall never end.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

199 Canticle of Mary

200 Tell Out, My Soul

198 My Soul Gives Glory to My God

215 To a Maid Engaged to Joseph

197 Ye Who Claim the Faith of Jesus

SIXTH LESSON Luke 2:1 –7

Against a backdrop of emperors and taxes,
Jesus is born.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

228 He Is Born

241 That Boy–Child of Mary

235 Rock–a–Bye, My Dear Little Boy

245 The First Noel (stanza 1)


The shepherds go to see the Savior of the world, lying in a manger.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

72 Gloria, Gloria

221 In the Bleak Midwinter (stanzas 1, 2)

229 Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

245 The First Noel (stanzas 1,2)

EIGHTH LESSON Matthew 2:1 –11

The wise men follow a star to find the child Jesus, the King of the Jews.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

243 De Tierra Lejana Venimos
(From a Distant Home)

254 We Three Kings

248 On This Day Earth Shall Ring

221 In the Bleak Midwinter

NINTH LESSON * John 1:1 –14

John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation.

CAROL Suggested from UMH:

234 O Come, All Ye Faithful
239 Silent Night, Holy Night

COLLECT * See Christmas (UMH 231) or one of the prayers. on 276–79.

Instead of a collect, Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light (UMH 223) may be sung.

May the Christ who by his Incarnation
gathered into One things earthly and heavenly,
fill you with the sweetness of inward peace and goodwill;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

Go forth in peace and joy.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!


Congregations at this point, or immediately prior to the Dismissal with Blessing, may choose to have a candle lighting service. Candles should be distributed prior to the service. The pastor or other worship leader may light a candle from the Christ candle and then light the candles of others, dipping only the unlighted candle. The congregation may then exit the sanctuary with the candles. Children enjoy participating but need the supervision of adults.

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