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Christmas Service

'A Right Royal Christmas' - Bishop Richard Chartres preaches from the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London at the close of a remarkable Diamond Jubilee Year. Bishop Stephen Oliver and Chaplain to the Queen and Chaplain to HM Tower of London, The Revd Roger Hall MBE, are joined by members of the community who today live within the walls of the Tower in this joyful act of worship for Christmas morning which will draw parallels and contrasts between the Kingship of Jesus Christ and some of the Royal happenings for which the Tower of London is famous. The Choir of the Chapels Royal, HM Tower of London present a feast of lively and popular carols including the Christmas morning favourite 'I Saw Three Ships.' Music Director: Colm Carey with organist Andrew Arthur. Producer: Mark O'Brien.

Release date:

43 minutes

Last on

Christmas Day 2012 09:00

Tower of London

                                                                CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

INSERT Lord Dannatt interview/open (link into cong in chapel – the community here..)

Music: I saw three ships (arr.Preston)

+Stephen:  Behold I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people: for unto you is born in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. A very warm welcome to the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London:

                        May the love and peace of Christ be always with you.

Cong.:           AND ALSO WITH YOU.

+ Stephen:    God of mystery and majesty we give you thanks and praise for the birth of your Son

                            Jesus Christ.In Him,born of Mary by the power of the Holy spirit,we have seen your     

                            grace and your glory.


                             As your Son,our Saviour,was born in poverty in a manger we acknowledge our greed

                              and rejection of your love.  Lord have mercy.

Cong.:                LORD HAVE MERCY

+Stephen :       As the shepherds left their flocks to go to Bethlehem we recognise our self interest

                              and rejection of your Spirit.Christ have mercy.

Cong.:                CHRIST HAVE MERCY

+Stephen :       As the  Wise Men followed the star to find the King we confess the fears that bind us  

                             and our rejection of your Kingdom.Lord have mercy.

Cong.:                LORD HAVE MERCY.


+ Stephen :     May the God of all healing and peace draw us to himself that without fear we may

                              behold his grace and glory in the face of Jesus Christ our Saviour.


Cong.:                AMEN.



+Stephen:        Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Here was born a revolution in the    understanding of kingship; here was born the servant king. In later years Jesus would           teach his followers that whoever wanted to be great must be the servant of all. It’s               that commitment to royal  service for the good of the whole nation that informs our                              understanding of Monarchy; and more than that it tells of how power can safely be           handled today by those we call civil servants and government ministers. All this in the        celebration and                joy at the birth of a baby in Bethlehem.


Choir carol:      I saw a maiden.(Edgar Pettman).


+ Stephen :      In the dark days of their history the yearning of the people of God for an end to                                                  violent oppression and injustice was kept alive through the voices of the great                                  Prophets. Here is Isaiah remembering the golden age of king David but looking                                     forward to the dawn of a new day, a new life in the birth of a child, the prince of                   peace. It’s read by

Reading:        Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
   and the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
   and all the garments rolled in blood
   shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
   a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
   and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
   and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
   He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

The word of the Lord.


 Cong.:            THANKS BE TO GOD.


+ Stephen : Psalm 145 is a prayer of celebration and deep thankfulness for the mercy and goodness  of God.Part of that Psalm is read now by Timothy West.

                                                                                                                                                                                             Reading:        Psalm 145      Timothy West.

Praise. Of David.
1 I will extol you, my God and King,
   and bless your name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you,
   and praise your name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
   his greatness is unsearchable.

4 One generation shall laud your works to another,
   and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendour of your majesty,
   and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
   and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
   and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
   and his compassion is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
   and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
   and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all people your* mighty deeds,
   and the glorious splendour of your* kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
   and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
   and gracious in all his deeds.*
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
   and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
   and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
   satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
   and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
   to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfils the desire of all who fear him;
   he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
   but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
   and all flesh will bless his holy name for ever and ever.


Congregational Carol: O little town of Bethlehem (Choir only ‘How silently,how silently.)


+ Stephen:   The Rt.Rev and Rt. Hon. Richard Chartres is Bishop of London and Dean of the Chapels         Royal. He gives the first of two reflections on this Christmas morning.


+Richard :Reflection 1.

Reflection I

I am speaking to you this Christmas morning from the Chapel of a Royal Palace where in centuries past Princes have come, some in state and others in fear. The first Queen Elizabeth as a Princess and then as Monarch experienced both triumph and terror here in the Tower.

The world into which Jesus was born was one in which rulers frequently claimed to be divine. The coins which Jesus handled as a young man proclaimed that Caesar was literally god.

We are centuries away from the days in our own country when monarchs claimed to rule by divine right but still kings and queens, princes and princesses are called to lead public lives which are colourful editions of the lives of every man and woman.

In her Diamond Jubilee Year our own Queen is not caught up in the world of political conflict which the first Elizabeth inhabited. Rather she serves by pointing beyond the realm occupied by the Caesars of the past and present to that sphere of loving and living; those deep and simple virtues which give us direction and unity as a people.  

There is a symbolic aura which surrounds monarch in every age and this is evident in the Hebrew Scriptures as we heard the prophet Isaiah longing for the advent of the Prince of Peace, sprung from the root of Jesse, King David’s father.

Old Testament expectations of a royal saviour and other prophecies have exercised a magnetic influence over the stories of the birth of Jesus. Psalm LXXII looks forward to a day when “All Kings shall fall down before him” and this vision has played a part in converting in the popular imagination the magi, wise men from the East, in Matthew’s account of the birth, into the three kings. Melchior is said to be from Persia; Caspar from India and Balthazar from Arabia.

The gifts which they brought were also symbolic and described by an early Christian writer, Origen, as “gold for a king; myrrh for a mortal and incense for a god”.          

In Matthew’s account the magi went logically enough to the centre of government, to the royal palace for intelligence about the birth of the new king. The civil service had an idea that according to ancient prophecy the expected birth place was Bethlehem but the suggestion of some competitor king sent shock waves through Herod’s regime and the imperial system of which he was a part.

Jesus’s world was saturated with imperial propaganda. An inscription from one of the ruined cities of the Roman Empire celebrates the Emperor Augustus in words which St Luke annexes for the song of the angels – “The birthday of the god has marked the beginning of good news for the world.” Another inscription describes him as “Saviour of the whole world.”

The achievements of Augustus in establishing order throughout the Empire were not contemptible. He consolidated the peace by establishing military dominance; improving the administration and gathering more precise information about the inhabitants of the Empire. Mary and Joseph had left Nazareth to journey to Bethlehem in obedience to some kind of imperial initiative.

But accurate intelligence about the character and identity of the new king was not available at Herod’s headquarters so the wise men went out into the dark again to follow the star which they had seen in the East. The star leads them beyond all calculation and the known and eventually they arrive at a place which could not be a greater contrast to a palace. Straw not laundered sheets were what they saw and the stink of the farmyard rather than the fragrance of perfume was what they smelt. Instead of a Caesar-Saviour, the night visitors encounter a divine child.

God so loved the world that he was generous and gave himself to us in the person of the infant Jesus whose destiny was not command and control but to love his enemies into loving. We no longer regard Caesar as God and the coming of the Christ-child has also changed our picture of God and reveals a generous God who does not in his heart of hearts resemble Caesar.        

Carol: Unto us is born a son.


+Stephen : We hear now the story of the birth of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s Gospel, of the mysterious star of Bethlehem and of wise men searching for the new born King. It’s read by ……..  and afterwards, with TS Eliot’s take on the wise men, Timothy West reads ‘The Coming of the Magi’.


Reading  : Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men* from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,* and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah* was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherd* my people Israel.” ’

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men* and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,* until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped,* they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


Reading  :The Coming of the Magi( T.S.Eliot). Timothy West.


+ Richard: Reflection 2 (Starts by acknowledging “T.S.Eliot’s ‘The Coming of the Magi’

Reflection II

The wise men “departed into their own country another way”.

A genuine encounter with the Christ-child, an infant born in a stable to an ordinary mother in a far off province of the Empire may not on the surface seem very earth shaking but in reality it changes everything.

“We returned to our places, these Kingdoms

But no longer at ease here in the old dispensation”

Our contemporary world is dominated by technology, systems and machines and needs to re-discover its heart. If we want to avoid moving into a new ice age of humanity, sterile and tedious then we must seek to give more weight to reasons of the heart.

For some time people have been working to develop a computer that can think and it may be that it can be done. No one, however, has suggested developing a computer that can love.

But the happiness we enjoy or the misery we suffer here on earth does not depend on what we know or do not know but rather, on whether we love and whether we are loved.

It is not difficult to see why we are so keen to widen our knowledge and perfect our systems and why we are so little concerned to increase our capacity to love. It is because  –

Knowledge translates directly into power

Love translates directly into service and self giving.

Paul’s words remain true “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up” [1Cor.VIII:1] but secular culture finds it difficult to accept truth when it comes from a religious source. One of the master myths of European culture, however, tells the same story. The conclusion of Goethe’s Faust is that only love can redeem and save while science and the thirst for knowledge without love can lead to damnation.

What we see in the birth in Bethlehem is the love of God who so loves the world that he is generous and gives himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. In the life and death and resurrection of the Christ, the anointed one, God publishes and brings into effect his plan for the spiritual evolution of the whole human race and for building a civilisation of love.

He is born as a vulnerable child and empties himself, taking the form of a servant. He teaches us that the first step in becoming a human being is to refuse to be a little god and then to go beyond ourselves, following the Christ on his way of love.

Christian faith is not first and foremost an ideology or some theory about God. It is first a willingness to follow and to love.

That is why doubt is not opposed to faith even on Christmas morning and indeed doubt may be a gift to winkle us out of infantile understandings. No, the opposite to faith is an ungenerous life turned in upon itself and in a calculating way looking after number one. Faithful Christians are neither afraid to reason nor are they ashamed to adore and to look beyond themselves.

For God love is not so much an emotion which comes and goes. Love for God is self-giving and that is why as Christians we can be commanded to love and to find the centre of our lives in the other, in God and in our neighbour.  The mystery is that the more we go beyond ourselves the more we find our deepest and truest selves and our spiritual beauty is revealed. The more indefatigably we love our neighbour in the Spirit of Christ the more certain we are made of the worth and loveliness of our own souls and that our destiny is to participate in the love of God in eternity.

Christmas Morning is the breaking through of that vision for this world and the world to come which the greatest poet of the Christian West Dante saw and celebrated at the conclusion of his Paradiso - “All the scattered leaves of the universe bound together in one volume by love”


Nativity Carol (John Rutter).


+ Stephen :  Our prayers this morning are led by the Chaplain here at the Tower of London,
                       the Rev.Roger Hall.


Chaplain : On this Christmas morning we celebrate the birth of Christ and rejoice with the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven for the yearly reminder of God’s great love for us, in the birth of Jesus Christ at Bethlehem.


Lord in your mercy


CONG   Hear our prayer


During this Christmas season we pray for the church throughout the world. In particular, we pray for Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury and Justin Welby, Archbishop designate. We pray for Bishop Richard, Dean of Chapels’ Royal and for the Chapels Royal, their chaplains and congregations.


Lord in your mercy


CONG   Hear our prayer


In this diamond Jubilee year we pray for Her Majesty the Queen and all the members of the Royal family. We remember her Government, Prime Minster and all those set in authority under her.


Lord in your mercy


CONG   Hear our prayer


We pray for the Tower of London, for our Constable, the Governor, the Chief Yeoman Warder and all those who live and work here. We pray for the chapels of St Peter-ad-Vincula and St John the Evangelist that they maybe places of peace and hope for the many visitors and those who worship in them at this Christmas time.


Lord in your mercy


CONG   Hear our prayer


We remember those people who have to work at Christmas, we pray for our emergency services, those of our armed forces serving on operations around the world and all those working today.


Lord in your mercy


CONG   Hear our prayer


We pray for those who are sick in body, mind and spirit. For the hungry, homeless and those without hope. We thank God for those volunteers who have given up their free time to work with disadvantaged at Christmas.


Lord in your mercy


CONG   Hear our prayer


Finally, we draw our prayers together as we say the family prayer which Jesus taught us:



Cong.:              Our Father,who art in heaven...for thine is the Kingdom,the power and the glory for

                           ever and ever,Amen.


+Stephen:     As we come to the end of this Christmas Service of celebration, all of us in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, thankyou for joining us and wish you a very Happy Christmas.


+ Richard:            Almighty God, who has given us thine only begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit, through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God world without end and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be with you this Christmas Day and always.

CONG: Amen.

 Carol:              Hark the Herald Angels sing.

Organ voluntary