Sinden.org has published its annual preview of the music list for the 2017 Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge.
You may interested to view a spreadsheet of carols sung at this service from 1997 to the present, as well as some information about services prior to 1991. That can be accessed at Sinden.org/carols
This year on this website, for the days leading up to the service, we have offered a Kalendar of Carols: a more in-depth look at each piece of music to be sung this year.
As we approach the centenary of the service, it seems only natural to look back to its origins once again.
The first service Lessons and Carols service is always referenced in the write up in the service booklet, but I have to say that until this year I had never actually seen the order.
But all of a sudden, here it is! Order of Service for 1918.
If you are an aficionado of this liturgy, there is much to explore here.
As I've already mentioned, the opening hymn is preceded by the Invitatory Carol in this liturgy. Also, the lessons are quite different from what we know now. The inclusion of the Magnificat at the end is fascinating.
But there's another element that's almost easy to overlook: the short "benedictions" that follow each carol. After Milner-White's famous bidding prayer (how awesome it is to see this first printing of it!) comes a hymn, after which follows an additional benediction before the First Lesson. Devotees will recognize many of these phrases from the single blessing used in the service now.
This service, from the outset, seems to be have been conceived as a gift and a blessing. The words and the music bless us (again, how sacramental this sounds!). It is a Benediction, not exactly of the Blessed Sacrament, but of the Word Made Flesh.
Viewed this way, Lessons and Carols is not a concert stuffed between some liturgical bookends; it is a deeply liturgical offering of words and music undergirded by a theology of blessing and grace.
This service is meant to do more than outline or celebrate a theological concept: it is meant to draw us near the Incarnational reality of Jesus so that we may find him a blessing.
In that spirit, I wish you a very blessed Christmas, and I reproduce here the short benedictions that follow each carol in the service in 1918.
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