Friday, December 24, 2010

Nine Lessons and Carols, Part I: Processional, Prayers and Blessing

The Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is a tradition that started at King's College in Cambridge, England, and has been adapted for denominations across the Christian spectrum.

On this Christmas Eve and Day, All for Hymn will present carols and lessons from one of these services. The 2010 service at King's College can be found here. Here on All for Hymn, the carols may differ, but the lessons will be the same.

The tradition is for the service to open with Once in Royal David's City. The first verse is sung as a solo by one of the boys in the choir. Each boy must be prepared for this, as he is chosen for the honor right before the procession.

"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 mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love, and watch the lowly Maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay;
Christian children all must 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 wait around.


A priest leads the congregation in the Bidding Prayer, the Lord's Prayer and a blessing. You can find them on pages 10 and 11 of this service folder.  After the blessing and before the first reading, a carol is sung. This carol sets the stage for the readings, which take us from the Fall of Man to the Birth of Christ.

"The Truth from Above"

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.


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