Lessons and Carols

Lessons and Carols 

A Festival of Word and Song to Prepare for Christmas 

November 23, 2020: Lessons and Carols has been canceled due to the Covid pandemic.
We will look forward to seeing you and celebrating with you next year.
The Center wishes you a Happy Advent and Merry Christmas.


Each December, USD invites the campus community and the public at large to gather in Founders Chapel to enjoy "Lessons and Carols," a Christmas celebration that dates back well over one hundred years and is followed around the world in a multitude of different places. The most famous celebration comes from the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge University, in England (celebrated each year from 1918 to the present day) although the first festival of its kind can be traced to Truro, Cornwall, England, in 1880.

Through poignant readings from the Old and New Testaments interspersed with beautiful music, the congregation is invited to reflect on the birth of Jesus in the context of its significance in salvation history.

The theme of the celebration centers around the Magnificat, the Blessed Virgin Mary's response to her cousin Elizabeth's praise of her faith, as retold in the Gospel of Luke. The Magnificat sets the theme for the entire celebration: here we see God praised for the love, compassion and justice bestowed upon the world, especially the poor and the lowly and, above all else, for having honored the promise of a Messiah made generations before Mary’s own time.

Following selected musical preludes in keeping to the theme and occasion, the celebration begins with the readings from the Old Testament, which relate to the promises God made to Israel, with texts from the Prophets depicting the sorry state of humanity and its yearning and need for the coming Messiah, God’s Anointed One: out of the darkness shall emerge light, out of sorrow, joy. The New Testament readings reflect the fulfillment of these promises and tell the story of the Nativity of Jesus.

The carols and hymns that accompany the readings are specially chosen for each year, along with some constant traditional favorites. Past festivals have included, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", "Joy to the World", "Angels We Have Heard on High", “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming” and "What Child is This", as well as the performance of selections from pieces such as Handel’s Messiah and such uplifting modern carols as “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, which has served as the festival’s recessional song.

Each year staff, faculty and students help with the preparations and volunteer to be part of the procession, bearing the Book of Gospels, candles and banners, as well as to deliver the readings – the lessons – themselves. Members of the Alcala Club assist with ushering and directing guests.

Each year this wonderful celebration requires significant planning and funding. If you would like to consider sponsoring and donating toward helping ensure this tradition continues at USD, please contact us.

You can watch the video of 2008 Lessons and Carols.