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CAROL  Click and join in or listen to a performance from the Royal Albert Hall: 

Once in royal David's city

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

Once in royal David's city

Led by David

Welcome in the name of Christ. We have come together as the family of God in our father’s presence to start our celebrations of the festival of Christmas.


But first we pray:
For all Christian people, that by this festival, they may be renewed to fulfil Christ’s work in the world.

For the world itself, which is already Christ’s, that those who bear great responsibility for its future may be inspired by the message of Christmas to work together for the establishment of justice, freedom and peace. 

And we commend all whom we love or who are particularly in need of our prayers at this time to the unfailing mercy of our heavenly Father, and say together, as Christ himself taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.


CAROL  Click and join in or listen to Kings College Choir: 

In the bleak midwinter

Christina Rossetti arr. Harold Darke

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

In the bleak midwinter (live)

In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty -  Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim worship night and day,
A breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.


Jesus' birth foretold

David Finnigan reads Luke 1: 26 – 38

CAROL  Click and listen to Winchester Cathedral Choir: 

A maiden most gentle

Words: adapted from the original by The Venerable Bede
Tune : French traditional arr. Andrew Carter

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

A maiden most gentle (live)

A maiden most gentle and tender we sing;
Of Mary, the mother of Jesus our King. Ave Maria.

How bless’d is the birth of her heavenly child,
Who came to redeem us in Mary so mild. Ave Maria.

The Archangel Gabriel foretold by his call
The Lord of creation and Saviour of all. Ave Maria.

Three Kings came to worship with gifts rich and rare,
And marvelled in awe at the babe in her care. Ave Maria.

Rejoice and be glad at this Christmas, we pray;
Sing praise to the Saviour, sing endless ‘Ave’. Ave Maria.


The birth of the Saviour

Luke 2: 1 – 7

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 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. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 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.

CAROL  Click and listen to The Cambridge Singers: 

The cherry tree carol

English traditional arr. David Willcocks

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

The cherry tree carol (live)

Joseph was an old man, and an old man was he,

When he married Mary in the land of Galilee.


And as they were walking through an orchard so good,

There were cherries and berries as red as any blood.


O then bespoke Mary, with words both meek and mild,

‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph; for that I am with child’

‘Go to the tree then, Mary, and it shall bow to thee;

And you shall gather cherries, by one, by two, by three.’


Then bowed down the highest tree unto our Lady’s hand;

‘See,’ Mary cried, ‘see, Joseph, I have cherries at command.’


‘O eat your cherries, Mary, O eat your cherries now;

O eat your cherries, Mary, that grow upon the bough.’


Then Mary plucked a cherry, as red as any blood,

Then Mary went she homewards all with her heavy load.


The shepherds hear of the birth

Alison Colvile reads Luke 2: 8 – 20

CAROL  Click and listen to the Merbecke Choir
(Southwark Cathedral, 2015):

Infant holy, infant lowly

Polish traditional, transl. Edith Reed, arr. David Willcocks

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

Infant holy, infant lowly (live)

Infant holy, infant lowly,
for his bed a cattle stall;
oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ the babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging angels singing,
nowells ringing, tidings bringing;
Christ the babe is Lord of all;
Christ the babe is Lord of all!

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping
vigil till the morning new;
saw the glory, heard the story -
tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the babe was born for you;
Christ the babe was born for you!


Visitors from the East

Matthew 2: 1 – 12

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 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.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 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. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘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.’”

7 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.”

9 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. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 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.

CAROL  Click and listen to The Cambridge Singers: 

Christmas Night

Words and music by John Rutter

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

Christmas Night (live)


Liz Hamilton reads If you look for me at Christmas 
(author unknown)

If you look for me at Christmas

you won't need a special star -

I'm no longer just in Bethelehem,
I'm right here where you are.

You may not be aware of me
amid the celebrations -

You'll have to look beyond the stores
and all the decorations.


But if you take a moment
from your list of things to do


And listen to your heart, you'll find
I'm waiting there for you.


You're the one I want to be with,
you're the reason that I came,


And you'll find me in the stillness
As I'm whispering your name.

CAROL  Click and listen to Kings College Choir: 

Nativity Carol

Words and music by John Rutter

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

Nativity Carol (live)

A STORY  told by David


The Word became flesh

Judith Grundy reads John 1: 1 – 14

BLESSING  given by David

CAROL  Click and join in or listen: 

Hark the herald angels sing

Or listen to Holmbury Church Choir:

Hark the herald angels sing


Live recording of James playing:

JS Bach: In Dulci Jubilo, BWV 729

JS Bach - In Dulci Jubilo BWV 729


All donations from our Christmas services will be sent to Crisis, who not only provide food and shelter at Christmas, but work with thousands of homeless people throughout the year, providing vital help so that people can rebuild their lives and are supported out of homelessness for good.

Click here to make a secure online payment:

Background photo was taken at

St Mary's Carols by Candlelight

on 19 December 2020