The service of Lessons and Carols is patterned after the Festival of Lessons and Carols which has been held annually at night on Christmas Eve in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England, since the end of World War I. The heart of the service is in the lessons from Holy Scripture which recount the salvation history of humankind.
The service always begins with the old hymn, “Once in Royal David's City,” in effect saying, “Once upon a time...” as the drama of salvation begins to unfold. A series of lessons from Scripture are then read and each lesson is followed by a carol, which may reflect upon the lesson just read. The climax of the traditional King’s College Chapel service comes with the reading of the prologue from St. John's Gospel. The service at Christ Church in Sheridan on the Sunday before Christmas, December 23, will conclude with the celebration of Holy Communion. In the Episcopal Church, all baptized persons are welcome to receive Communion; therefore, visitors can participate in every aspect of this service.
At King’s College Chapel, there is a choir whose repertoire consists of traditional and contemporary arrangements of carols, all accompanied by the chapel’s great organ. At Christ Church in Sheridan, the music will be less elaborate, but equally heart-felt and inspirational and suitable for the occasion.
For any who are interested, the Festival of Lesson and Carols from the 15th century chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, is broadcast around the world by the BBC and can be seen on Montana PBS on Christmas Eve.