By MATT SEDDON
Christ Church, the only English-language Anglican Church in Mexico City, will hold its annual Festival of Lessons and Carols on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 6:00 pm.
Lessons and Carols is a beloved Christmas tradition in both the United Kingdom and the United States.
Although its origins are almost mythical, what is known is that the first service was held in 1880 in Truro Cathedral in England. According to the popular story, the Bishop of Truro was frustrated by the fact that all the men in the village spent Christmas Eve in the pubs. So, he devised a service that mixes nine readings from the Bible related to the birth of Jesus with choral pieces, popular Christmas hymns and carols.
Apparently, it worked — or at least well enough that many other churches in England began the practice.
The service gained further fame and attention when the choir of King’s College, Cambridge — famous throughout the Anglican Church and English-speaking world — revitalized the service in 1918. Subsequently, it spread throughout the English-speaking world.
One of my most profound spiritual experiences as a child was attending this service in All Saints Chapel in Sewanee, Tennessee, in the early 1970s. I loved belting out “Glo-o-o-o-o-oh-o-o-o-o-oh-o-o-o-o-oria” from the hymn “Angels We Have Heard on High” in a church filled with people. It defined the Christmas spirit for me as a kid.
Christ Church has held this service for more than 50 years. Ambassadors from the English-speaking world have traditionally led many of the carols, and this year the ambassadors from the United Kingdom and the United States are planning to attend.
Attendees get a chance to listen to a professional choir and sing along. The Christ Church choir, the Exultate Ensemble Coral, will sing the Alleluia (from the Oratorio de Noël), op. 12 by Camille Saint-Saëns, the Carol of the Bells (music by Mykola Leontovych in 1914 and lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky), Es Ist ein Ros’ entsprungen (Anon, 16th century), and an 18th century piece called Eso Rigor e Repente (by Gaspar Fernandes), a hymn composed partly from songs sung by slaves in Central America.
The congregation will get to sing along to Christmas classics like Silent Night, We Three Kings, The First Noël, Oh Come all Ye Faithful, and What Child is This (also known as Greensleeves).
The service will last about an hour and a half and will be followed by a reception. It is all free and open to the public.
Matt Seddon is an Anglican priest and rector of Christ Church Parish in Mexico City. Christ Church has services each Sunday in English at 10:30 a.m. and Spanish at 12:30 p.m. Christmas services this year are on Dec. 24 at 12 noon in Spanish and 5 p.m. in English, and on Dec. 25 at 12 noon.