St Philip's 2020 Service of Nine Lessons and Carols


Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is a joyous event of celebration and praise! The 2020 celebration was slightly different from the usual format, to keep to our Covidsafe Plan. We gathered in the courtyard for the first readings and to enjoy some singing together before we went indoors on a chilly evening! This page presents the prayers and readings we shared, with recordings (from other performers) of the music that was sung and played live for us on 19 and 20 December. Merry Christmas!

The Bidding, read by The Reverend Martin Johnson

Beloved in Christ, it is with great joy that we welcome you to this celebration. This night we prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels, and to go in heart and mind to Bethlehem and to see the Christ child. We come to offer our praise and thanksgiving for the wondrous love God has shown toward us in this birth of love, and to rejoice in the eternal hope that it brings to all peoples. But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all God's people and for unity and communion within the Church of God, and in every land, that it may be filled with faith and love. Let us remember in prayer, the poor and helpless, the oppressed, the cold, the hungry, all refugees, the disposed and those unjustly deprived of liberty. Let us remember the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who cannot believe in him and those who walk in darkness or the shadow of death. Let us also remember those who rejoice with us upon another shore and in a greater light — that multitude who none 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 Grace, in the words which Christ himself has taught us.

We prayed the Lord's Prayer together.

We sang "Once in Royal David's City."

First reading: God speaks in the garden. (Genesis 3.8-15).

We sang "O come, O come, Emmanuel."

Second reading: God gives a promise to faithful Abraham (Genesis 22.15-18).

We sang "The People that in Darkness Walked"

(Click for Audio file)

Third reading: Isaiah fortells the Saviour’s birth (Isaiah 9.2-7).

We sang "The Angel Gabriel."

Then we all processed into the church.

Fourth reading: The Angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38).

Douglas Macnicol (violin) played The Loure from the 3rd Partita in E Major, by J.S. Bach 1685-1750.

Fifth reading: "Mary visits Elizabeth." (Luke 1.39-56.)

The Magnificat by Randall Thompson 1899-1984, was sung by Rosemary Lohmann (soprano), accompanied by Colin Forbes (piano)

Sixth reading: The angel tells Joseph that Mary's child will be God with us (Matthew 1:18-23).

O, my Deir Hert (Anon 13th century), music Herbert Howells 1892-1983


"The little road to Bethlehem", lyrics Margaret Rose, music Michael Head (1900-1976, were sung by Janene Broere (mezzo soprano) accompanied by Colin Forbes (piano)

Seventh reading: The Shepherds go to the Manger (Luke 2:8-16).

Ach des Knaben Augen, from the Spanisches Liederbuch, music Hugo Wolf 1860-1903, was sung by Peter Smith (baritone) accompanied by Colin Forbes (piano).

Translation: Oh, this boy's eyes, they seem so beautiful and clear, and from them something shines that wholly wins my heart. With his sweet eyes, he looks right into mine. If he should see his image there, he would perhaps give me a loving smile. And so I give my very soul to follow and serve those eyes, for in them something shines, that wholly wins my heart.

"The First Mercy", lyrics Bruce Blunt (1899-1957), music Peter Warlock (1894-1930), was sung by Rosemary Lohmann (soprano) accompanied by Colin Forbes (piano).

Eighth Reading: The wise men are led by the star to Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).

O Rest in the Lord, from Elijah, by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), trans. William Bartholomew, was sung by Janene Broere (Mezzo soprano), accompanied by Colin Forbes (piano).

Auf ein altes Bild, lyrics Eduard Friedrich Morike (1804-75), music Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), sung by Peter Smith (Baritone) accompanied by Colin Forbes (piano).

Translation: Summer blossoms in a green landscape, by cool water, rush and reed; see how the little boy in happy innocence is playing on the Virgin‘s lap! And in the wood, ah, there already a radiant green unfolds on the tree trunk marked for the cross.

Ninth Reading: St John unfolds the great mystery of the incarnation (John 1:1-14.)

Et incarnatus est ("And was made incarnate"), from the Mass in C Minor K427, by W. A. Mozart (1756-1791), with Latin text from the Nicene Creed, was sung by Erica Tolano (soprano), accompanied by Colin Forbes (piano).

We processed outside into the Courtyard and gathered around the Plane tree, where we sang "Silent night".


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
The Virgin among a Multitude of Animals (1503)
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.
(Click the image for a larger version.)


The Closing Prayer and Blessing

The Lord be with you. And also with you.

All glory to you gracious God, for the gift of your Son whom you sent to bring us peace, joy and hope. With the angels, let us praise your name, and tell the earth his story, that all may believe, rejoice and proclaim your love; -Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

May he — who by his incarnation gathered into one all 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.



A theme that much preoccupied the creative talent of Albrecht Dürer throughout his life was of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. In this watercolour the Virgin is among a multitude of animals and plants that partake in the serenely joyous harmony of Mother and Child. The child appears to gesture towards the tree trunk in which there are two owls that symbolise death, ruin and destruction. We heard about this in the Auf ein altes Bild ("On looking at an old painting.") "And in the wood, ah, there already a radiant green unfolds on the tree trunk marked for the cross."

The traditional Service of Nine Lessons and Carols includes short readings from the Bible that tell the story of Jesus coming among us, each usually with by a carol sung by us all plus a piece presented by the choir and musicians. The format was devised by Edward Benson (Archbishop of Canterbury 1882-1896) and first used in Truro Cathedral on Christmas Eve, 1880. The service was famously adopted by King's College, Cambridge, in 1918.