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Festival of Lessons and Carols



Gathering:  O Come O Come Emmanuel




We celebrate this festival to recall our redemption, through the mystery of the Incarnation.

Though sin separated us from God, God never stopped loving us.

The prophets of old told of the coming of a Messiah

who would initiate a reign of God’s justice and peace.

This promise was fulfilled in the coming of God among us, Jesus, Immanuel.

We reflect on this great mystery, by reading the scriptures and listening to the hymns.


Opening Prayer

O God most high and most near,

you send glad tidings to the lowly,

you hid not your face from the poor;

those who dwell in darkness you call into the light.


Take away our blindness,

remove the hardness of our hearts,

and form us into a humble people,

that, at the advent of your Son,

we may recognize him in our midst

and find joy in his saving presence.


We ask this through him whose coming is certain,

whose day draws near:

your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity 

            of the Holy Spirit.

God for ever and ever. Amen!

First Reading


Isaiah xi – The peace that Christ will bring is foreshown 


But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:

a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

A spirit of counsel and of strength,

a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,

and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Not by appearance shall he judge,

nor by hearsay shall he decide,

But he shall judge the poor with justice,

and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted.

He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.

Justice shall be the band around his waist,

and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;

The calf and the young lion shall browse together,

with a little child to guide them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

together their young shall lie down;

the lion shall eat hay like the ox.

The baby shall play by the viper’s den,

and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.

They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,

as water covers the sea.

Carol:  Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Sacred Silence



O stem of Jesse,

we wait for the day of your peace.

May we help to bring this peace

to our families, our communities, and our world. Amen!


Second Reading


Luke 1 – The angel Gabriel salutes Mary 


In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”  And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Carol:  The Angel Gabriel

Carol:  God My Savior

Sacred Silence



O God of surprises,

you asked Mary to trust in you.

May we always have that same trust,

and respond with the same yes

that Mary gave. Amen!

Third Reading


Luke 2 – St. Luke tells the story of the birth of Jesus


In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Carol:  Away in a Manger

Carol:  O Little Town of Bethlehem


Sacred Silence


O Morning Star,

guide us in your gentle way,

and help us to be your light,

in a dark and troubled world. Amen!

Fourth Reading


Luke 2 – The Shepherds go to the manger


Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:


“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 


So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

Carol:  In the Bleak Midwinter

Carol:  Silent Night 


Sacred Silence


Gentle God,

You chose to reveal yourself first to the most lowly.

May we always see you in the least among us,

and serve them with gentleness and humility. Amen!

Fifth Reading 


St. Matthew ii – The Wisemen are led by the star to Jesus 

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”


Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Carol:  We Three Kings 

Carol:  The First Nowell

Sacred Silence


Good and generous God,

you are the giver of all gifts.

Help us to share the gifts you have given,

for the glory of your name. Amen!

Sixth Reading


 St. John I – St. John unfolds the mystery of the Incarnation


In the beginning was the Word, 

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.


He was in the beginning with God.

All things came to be through him,

and without him nothing came to be.

What came to be4through him was life,

and this life was the light of the human race;

the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.


A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.


He was in the world,

and the world came to be through him,

but the world did not know him.


He came to what was his own,

but his own people did not accept him.


But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.


And the Word became flesh

and made his dwelling among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory as of the Father’s only Son,

full of grace and truth.

Carol:  Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 


Closing Prayer

Creator God,

you are beyond all time and space.

May we never fail to recognize you

and give praise to you in all we do. Amen!




May God with us, bless us,

protect us from all evil,

and bring us to everlasting life. Amen!

Closing Carol:  Of the Father’s Love Begotten

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