I hope you enjoy this summary of the service with a few pics and videos of carols (so please be patient if the page takes a wee while loading) - why not sing along?
The Advent Candle was lit as St Vigor's excellent choir started proceedings with the 16th century carol Gaudete - here's Steeleye Span's classic rendition of it on their 2004 world tour:
The first carol, after Canon Keiller's welcome and opening prayer, was Once in Royal David's City, which is signed here by the Revd Dr Hannah Lewis of DeafClergy.co.uk:
The choir performed Warlock's arrangement of the medieoval hymn Adam lay yBounden, which is performed here by the choir of St Peter's Catholic Church in South Carolina:
The first lesson was The Promise to Abraham from Genesis 22:15-18, led by Steve Mashford:
The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Lesson 2 was The people that walked in darkness from Isaiah 9:2,6,7:
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
The Choir stepped in again with John Joubert's arrangement of There is no Rose, here performed earlier this year by Vokalensemble Lux Aeterna:
This was followed by the carol Of the Father's Heart begotten, performed by the boys and girls of Years 11 and 12 of St Mary's Academy and College, Kansas, directed by Dr Andrew Childs:
Lesson number three was The Peace that Christ will Bring is foreshown from Isaiah 11: 1-9, and was read by Church Warden Julia Herrick:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
The next carol was It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, sung here by Joni James, in a recording I'm unable to find a date for:
Lesson number 4 was The Annunciation from Luke 1:26-35, 38:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
The choir sung Pettman's arrangement of the Basque Christmas Carol The Angel Gabriel, here sung by All Angels on BBC TV's Songs of Praise.
This was followed by the world-famous carol O Little Town of Bethlehem, performed in this clip by the Sunflower Harmony Chorus:
The fifth lesson was The birth of Jesus from Luke 2:1, 3-7:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register.The next carol was Withers' Rocking Carol, performed by St Vigor's Choir and sung here by Cambridge's world-famous King's College Choir:
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Then followed Hark the Herald Angels Sing, performed in this video by Charlotte Church, while she was still a choirgirl:
Up next was The Shepherds, from Luke 2:8-20:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
The choir performed Rutter's arrangement of the Cornish Sans Day Carol, here performed at Alabama's Canterbury Episcopal Chapel:
The congregation joined in for While Shepherds Watched: here's Libera's interpretation on it on Aled Jones's Christmas show:
Lesson 7 was The Wise Men from Matthew 2:1-12:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The next anthem to be performed by the choir was Peter Cornelius' The Three Kings (Die Könige), sung in its original German here by Robert Rice:
Next carol up was As With Gladness, performed here by Loughborough University Choir:
After a collection for church funds, the eighth and last lesson was The mystery of Christ's incarnation, read by Canon Keiller and from John 1:1-14:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
After an Address and prayers by Jane, the final carol was the perennial O Come All Ye Faithful. I can't find one with the traditional descant, but here's a suitably epic rendition of the traditional "big finish" to carol services at a Celtic Woman concert in Dublin:
Have a Merry Christmas.