Lesson and carol services

King’s College at Cambridge University is popularly credited with creating lesson and carol services, although there is evidence of similar services earlier at various places in England. The first King’s College service was in 1919, and was a Christmas Eve service. With broadcasts from the BBC starting in 1928 from King’s College, their service has become the typical, whether for Advent or Christmas, as found in Carols for Choirs.

These are some example Advent and Christmas lesson and carol services in 2023, and Epiphany lesson and carol services in 2024 from around the internet, showing a variety of types of services.

Guests arriving at an Advent service of lessons and carols that do not know the concept. One wonders if there will be a test because of the word "lessons." Another said that these are not any carols they ever heard of. Another thinks that there is no Rudolph or Frosty that it isn't truth in advertising.

Advent Services of Lessons and Carols

Advent is the first season of the church year. It begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues through the day before Christmas (December 24).

The name “Advent:” is derived from a Latin word for “coming.” The season is a time of preparation and expectation for the coming celebration of our Lord’s nativity, and for the final coming of Christ “in power and glory.”

(Taken from Advent.)

Some locations do their service as a procession. That is, they move to various points around the church for different lessons and music. Many of those start in darkness, gradually bringing up the lights with each lesson.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A Procession of Advent Lessons & Carols Sung by the Parish Choir & the Boy & Girl Choristers of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It follows the Carols for Choirs model.

The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge University, England

This service is not exactly in the Carols for Choir model.

St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, Washington

This service is not in the Carols for Choir model. The “O” Antiphons Advent Procession, structured around the medieval “O” Antiphons, was created at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle, in 1986 and has been offered on the First Sunday of Advent almost every year since then.

Nashotah House Theological Seminary, Delafield, Wisconsin

Based on the original Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols intended for Christmas, we anticipate the coming of Our Lord in Advent hymns, anthems, readings, and prayers in St. Mary’s Chapel. The Nashotah Choral Scholars, our organ, and the whole community come together to create an inspired liturgy of words and song. The music is drawn from over a thousand years of melodies, from chanted plainsong to well-known hymns and new 21st-century compositions.

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, California

Greet the new liturgical year, and anticipate the promise of Christmas with the Advent Procession of Lessons and Carols sung by the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys of Grace Cathedral. As the first part of the Christmas story unfolds in verse and song, the Cathedral is gradually illuminated with lamps and candles. With movements from darkness to light, scripture, and song, the Advent Procession engages the heart, mind, and senses in a hope-filled journey toward God’s coming among us. Sung by the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys.

Trinity Cathedral, Portland, Oregon

Advent Lesson and Carols in a Carols for Choir model.

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington: Washington National Cathedral

This is the Advent Lessons and Carols service from the Washington National Cathedral.

All Saints’ Cathedral, Nairobi, Kenya

Advent Carol Service with Processions, Lessons and Carols from All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya. They are using Carols for Choir.

Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia

The Advent Procession from Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia. While different from the service at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, it uses the “O” antiphons to structure the service. Otherwise, it follows the Carols for Choir model.

Cathedral of Saint Andrew, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi

While this Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols service follows closely to the Carols for Choir model. Hymns include newer ones from the Hymnal 1982.

The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Glasgow, Scotland

This is the Advent Carol Service from St Mary’s Cathedral in the West End of Glasgow, Scotland.

Christ Church Cathedral Transitional, Christchurch City, New Zealand

This service is from the temporary home of Christ Church Cathedral (“cardboard cathedral”) while they are rebuilding after an earthquake.


Christmas (in old English, Cristes maesse) is a festival celebrated on December 25. It commemorates the Incarnation of the Word of God in the birth of Jesus Christ. In the Book of Common Prayer. it is also called “The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the United States it is also a popular secular holiday.

(Taken from Christmas.)

Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia

Christ Church Cathedral Transitional, Churchchurch city, New Zealand

Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

Saint Thomas Church, New York, New York

This Service of Nine Lessons and Carols is sung by the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, featuring works of French, M. Martin, Latona, Wilcox, Moore, Rutter, and Chilcott.

We welcome you to Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, a vibrant, growing parish of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan at Fifth and Fifty-third. Our Mission is to worship, love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ through the Anglican tradition and our unique choral heritage.

Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington: Washington National Cathedral

Readings from Holy Scripture, favorite hymns, and instrumental music carry us from Creation to the manger in Bethlehem, telling the ancient story of God’s continuing love as made known in Christ.

Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York City

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine’s service of Lessons and Carols on Sunday, December 24, 2023, at 4:00 pm.

Glenalmond College (secondary school), Perthshire, Scotland

A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at the Chapel of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Glenalmond College.

All Saints’ Cathedral, Nairobi, Kenya

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols with organ and choir from All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi, Kenya


A season of four to nine weeks, from the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The length of the season varies according to the date of Easter.

The gospel stories of this season describe various events that manifest the divinity of Jesus. The coming of the Magi is celebrated on the Epiphany. The Baptism of our Lord is observed on the Sunday after Epiphany. The gospels for the other Sundays of the Epiphany season describe the wedding at Cana, the calling of the disciples, and various miracles and teachings of Jesus. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany is always devoted to the Transfiguration. Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is dramatically revealed in the Transfiguration gospel, as well as the gospel of the baptism of Christ.

We are called to respond to Christ in faith through the showings of his divinity recorded in the gospels of the Epiphany season.

St. Peter’s Church, Ladue, Missouri

A lessons and carols service with events from Christmas through the coming of the Magi from St. Peter’s Church in Ladue, Missouri.

St. Paul’s Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This service is based upon the Services of Advent or Christmas Lessons and Carols so familiar to many, but the lessons quickly move past those seasons into the events and symbols represented by Epiphany, particularly that of light, and Christ as the Light of the world.

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer: Worshiping God, living in community, reaching out to the world.

Church of the Redeemer

Church of the Redeemer: Worshiping God, living in community, and reaching out to the world around us. We are an Episcopal Church serving north King County and south Snohomish County, Washington. As you travel your road, go with friends walking the way of Jesus at Redeemer.

Church of the Redeemer is at 6210 Northeast 181st Street in Kenmore, Washington. The campus is a short distance north of Bothell Way, near the Burke-Gilman Trail. The entrance looks like a gravel driveway. The campus is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. And we managed to hide a large building on the side of a hill that is not easily seen from the street.

The Episcopal Church welcomes you.