The Carried Tradition of Lessons & Carols

Posted by Trinity Klomparens on 12/1/23 10:00 AM

The Story Behind Lessons and Carols

The Barbara Hodel Center Gymnasium at Patrick Henry College is dark and still. Parents and children sit expectantly, unlit candles gripped firmly in their hands. Choir stands are poised on stage, waiting for chorale members to lead attendees in worship.

Lessons & Carols Livestream

PHC’s annual Lessons & Carols event will be held again this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The event, based on a tradition started in 1918 at King’s College in England, brings the PHC community together for a night of Christmas festivity and worship. Students, faculty, alumni, and community members join together to worship and praise God—remembering the gospel story. 

The PHC Music Department holds this event each Christmas season as a worship service. The night features the PHC chorale and chamber orchestra and is led by Chorale Director, Rod Appleton, and Orchestra Director, Scott McCormick.PHC Music Department

Lessons & Carols comprises nine lessons that walk through the story of salvation and the Incarnation of Christ—each lesson alternating between a scripture passage and a Christmas carol. The messages begin in Genesis with the fall of man and the consequent separation caused by his sin. Next is the promise of God to Abraham: that through his seed all the nations of the world will be blessed.

Lessons three and four recount the prophecies in Isaiah which foretell the coming of Jesus and the peace He will bring through the reconciliation of man to God. Lesson five describes the appearing of Gabriel to Mary, lesson six the birth of Christ, lesson seven the shepherds who run to worship the Savior in a manger, and lesson eight the wise men who come to worship Christ as king. Finally, the ninth lesson explains the whole mystery of the Incarnation through John 1, explicating the importance of the fact that the "Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."

At the end of lesson nine, the room goes dark and choristers pass out candles. As Silent Night begins to play, someone at the end of each row lights their candle and then the candle of the person next to them. In a couple of minutes, the whole gymnasium is glowing with the light of a hundred little candles, all hearkening back to when the true light, Christ Jesus, came to earth to know and overcome the darkness. 

Explore the PHC Chorale

That is what makes this program and the PHC orchestra and chorale so unique: their incredible talent harmonizes with their deeply held Christian worldview. It is not simply a performance. They lead the PHC community in worshipping God and remembering His faithfulness. 

"I love Lessons and Carols because the whole community comes together for a night of peace, joy, and the celebration of Christ's love," said Olivia Green, a member of the PHC chorale.

Lessons and Carol for LCD Screens (2)

The night is a longstanding tradition to kick off the Christmas season for the Purcellville community. President Jack Haye and Dean of Academic Affairs, Dr. Mark T. Mitchell, will give a call to worship and benediction for the service. It is a time of encouragement and a witness to the transformative nature of Christian, Christmas worship. 

Lessons and Carols 2023


 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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