Order of Service for Nine Lessons and Carols for Christmas

A service of Lessons & Carols for Christmas was first developed in 1880 by Bishop Edward Benson of Truro (who eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury). A later adaptation by King’s College, Cambridge, became widely known. Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa has further adapted this iconic Christmas liturgy, using readings and carols to narrate the story of God’s loving purpose in creation, from the Spirit of God, which moved over the waters at the beginning of time, and the covenant God made with humankind, to the abandonment of that covenant and the hope-filled promise of humankind’s redemption by the Holy Child of Bethlehem. The lessons are read by individuals from the Cathedral’s diverse community.

The service is offered by Christ Church Cathedral as a gesture of peace and goodwill to the people of the Nation’s Capital.

This service will be live broadcast for those of you participating from home. Because it is a live broadcast it will not be available until 4:00 Sunday afternoon. 

CLICK HERE to join the December 20th Sunday afternoon livestream.

Prelude:  Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645) - J.S. Bach

Hymn:   Once in Royal David’s City

The Bidding Prayer

Dear Friends, as we gather tonight on the ancestral territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe; let it be our delight to go, in our hearts and minds, to Bethlehem; and see the wondrous thing which came to pass, and the Messiah, lying in a manger.

Therefore, let us read from Holy Scripture the story of the loving purposes of God, from the beginning of creation unto the hope and redemption brought to us by the Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all nations and all people; for unity and friendship within the Church of Christ; and for all who seek to follow the way of Jesus.

Let us pray for all those who are vulnerable, and for all who are destitute, exploited or oppressed. Let us pray for the sick, the lonely and the unloved, and for those who live with small hope or painful loss. Let us pray for all who cannot see or feel the love of Christ, and for those who have grieved his heart of love.

Let us pray that God’s Holy Spirit will inspire each of us to use our lives to bring justice, reconciliation, healing and hope to wherever we are called to be. 

Lastly, let us remember all who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light; that multitude which no one can number, whose hope was born in the Word made flesh, and with whom, in Christ, we are forever one.

Let us humbly offer these prayers to the Creator of all in the words Jesus taught us: 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, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

1st Lesson      Genesis 1:1-25 

Carol              A great and mighty wonder – (harm. Michael Praetorius)

Resonemus laudibus cum jocunditatibus ecclesiam fidelibus. Apparuit quem genuit Maria. Deus fecit hominem ad suam imaginem et similitudinem. Apparuit quem genuit Maria. Deus fecit omnia, celum, terram, maria, cunctaque nascentia. Apparuit quem genuit Maria. Ergo nostro concio in chorids et organo benedicat Domino. Apparuit quem genuit Maria. Et Deo qui venias donat et laetitias nos eidem gratias. Apparuit quem genuit Maria. | Let us make the church resound with the merry praises of the faithful. He whom Mary bore hath appeared. God made man in his own image and likeness. God made all things, the heavens, the earth, the seas, and whatever has been born. Therefore let our company bless the Lord with strings and instrument, and let it give thanks to the same God, who gives us pardon and joys.

2nd Lesson        Genesis 1:26-2:1

Carol                  The truth from above – trad. (arr. R. Vaughan Williams)

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. 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 that season of the year Our blest Redeemer did appear; He 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.

3rd Lesson       Genesis 17:1-8; 22:18

Carol                Adam lay ybounden – Boris Ord

Adam lay ybounden, Bounden in a bond; Four thousand winter Thought he not too long. And all was for an apple, An apple that he took, As clerkës finden written In their book. Ne had one apple taken been, The apple taken been, Ne had never Our Lady A-been heaven's Queen. Blessèd be the time That apple taken was. Therefore we moun singen: Deo gratias!

4th Lesson       Isaiah 1:2-4, 16-17

Carol                I wonder as I wander – trad. (arr. John Rutter) L

Little lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Gave thee life, and bid thee feed By the stream and o’er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing, woolly, bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice? Little lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Little lamb, I’ll tell thee, Little lamb, I’ll tell thee; He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb, He is meek, and he is mild, He became a little child. I, a child, and thou a lamb, We are called by his name. Little lamb, God bless thee! Little lamb, God bless thee!

5th Lesson       Isaiah 9:2, 6; 11:5-9

Carol                Love came down at Christmas – John Rutter

Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas; star and angels gave the sign. Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine; worship we our Jesus, but wherewith for sacred sign? Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine; love to God and others, love for plea and gift and sign.

6th Lesson       Luke 1:26-38

Carol                Gabriel’s Message – trad. (arr. David Willcocks)

The lily has a smooth stalk will never hurt your hand; But the rose upon her brier is lady of the land. When with moss and honey she tips her bending brier, and half unfolds her glowing heart. There's sweetness in an apple tree, and profit in the corn; But lady of all beauty is a rose upon a thorn. When with moss and honey she tips her bending brier, and half unfolds her glowing heart, she sets the world on fire.

7th Lesson         Luke 2:1-7

Carol                  Nativity Carol – John Rutter

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. 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. 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.

8th Lesson        Luke 2:8-16

Carol                  A Gallery Carol – Robin Wells

Shepherds, called by angels, called by love and angels: No place for them but a stable. My Lord has come. Sages, searching for stars, searching for love in heaven; No place for them but a stable. My Lord has come. His love will hold me, his love will cherish me, love will cradle me. Lead me, lead me to see him, sages and shepherds and angels; No place for me but a stable. My Lord has come.

9th Lesson       John 1:1-14

Carol                Ding dong! merrily on high – trad. (arr. Mack Wilberg)

Ding dong merrily on high, In heav'n the bells are ringing: Ding dong! verily the sky Is riv'n with angel singing. Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis! E'en so here below, below, Let steeple bells be swungen, And "Io, io, io!" By priest and people sungen. Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis! Pray you, dutifully prime Your matin chime, ye ringers; May you beautifully rime Your evetime song, ye singers. Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis


The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

O God our Creator, whose Word has come among us in the Holy Child of Bethlehem, may the light of faith illumine our hearts and shine in our words and deeds; through him who is Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Postlude:    Finale (Symphonie 1) – Louis Vierne

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Officiant  Dean Beth Bretzlaff
Gospel and Blessing  Bishop Shane Parker
Organist   Nicholas Walters
Sung by Members of Members of Voces Cathedræ
Readers  Geoffrey Ebere, Connie Brooks, Ezra Thompson, Tim Lane, Richard Evans, Canon Hilary Murray, Gary Dahl, Sophie Mundel 
Duty Warden   Tim Marc, Sophie Mündel

Advent Wreath: www.saltproject.org ©2020. Liturgy: The Book of Alternative Services ©1985 by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Readings: New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV) Anglicized Edition, ©1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Prayers: Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, Kindle Edition.


Book of Alternative Services copyright © 1985 and Common Praise copyright © 1998 by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. All rights reserved. Reproduced under license from ABC Publishing, Anglican Book Centre, a ministry of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, from Anglican Liturgical Library. Further copying is prohibited. Readings from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, © copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.