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The Nine Lessons and Carol Service

Last night at Mill Hill we celebrated our annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols which for many marks the start of the Christmas celebrations. With a week that has seen the Foundation Schools shut due to heavy snow and thick ice, some may feel that the seasonal atmosphere began a little earlier!

The focus of this famous service is on the theme of redemption contained in the Scriptures which is developed through the reading of nine passages from the Old and New Testaments. The story begins with mankind’s disobedience when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree. The lessons then outline the divine plan for salvation, from God promising blessing to Abraham through to the prophecy of a Messiah, a promise Christians believe to have been fulfilled through the birth of Jesus through whom the glory of God becomes flesh.

The service was first held on Christmas Eve in 1918 at King’s College Cambridge, adapted from a service drawn up by E.W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for use in the cathedral at Truro in 1880. The service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, has been broadcast annually from King’s, with the overseas broadcast beginning in the ‘30s. Today millions of listeners tune in every year across the world to listen to this. Indeed, my childhood was spent abroad and we listened to this in Kenya, Canada, Pakistan and India, with the service providing an important link with friends and family back home at this festive time.

Yesterday evening in the Chapel at Mill Hill we will welcomed current and former pupils, parents and staff, to celebrate with us the Christmas message. As directed by the words of the Service, we prayed for peace and goodwill over all the earth, and remembered the poor and helpless, the cold and hungry, the sick in body and mind, and the little children, messages all contained within the Christmas Story. Whether or not of the Christian faith, I hope you will be able to share, like us, in the central theme of peace and goodwill celebrated at Christmas.

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmas Eve our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels: in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and with the Magi adore the Child lying in his Mother’s arms”