With less than four weeks to go until Christmas, the BBC has announced this year’s religious programming.
A line-up of television series and one-off specials provides a lovely selection of Christmas worship.
Traditional returning highlights include Midnight Mass on Christmas eve, the always-popular Carols from King’s, a festive episode of Songs of Praise, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message.
Daisy Scalchi, the BBC’s Head of Religion and Ethics for television, commented: “We have a superb mix of traditional carols, festive music, spiritual contemplation and live worship to mark this Christmas.”
She added: “I hope our content will provide an opportunity to come together to reflect as well as be inspired and uplifted as we mark this special time of year.”
Here’s a look ahead at what’s coming up:
My Life at Christmas – with Sally Phillips
In this three-part series on BBC One and streaming on BBC iPlayer, actress and comedian Sally Phillips meets Reverend Richard Coles, Strictly Come Dancing‘s Shirley Ballas, and poet Lemn Sissay to explore how their memories of Christmas reflect the enormous changes they have gone through in their lives, careers, family and faith.
Carols From King’s
Set in the stunning, vaulted, gothic chapel of King’s College Cambridge, this candle-lit Christmas Eve service on Saturday 24th December on BBC Two will celebrate the Christmas story through music, readings and prayers.
The world-renowned choir will be singing carols old and new, also leading the congregation as they sing ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’, and ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’.
This year’s Carols from King’s will be introduced by the Dean, the Revd Dr Stephen Cherry.
Carols from King’s will also be streaming in the US on BritBox for American viewers.
The traditional celebration of the First Mass of Christmas, and Blessing of the Crib, will be broadcast live on BBC One on Saturday 24th December from Blackburn Cathedral.
The modern gothic splendour of the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin with St Paul, stands on a site in Blackburn’s town centre that has been used for Christian worship for more than 1300 years.
The Christmas Eve service will be presided and introduced by Dean of Blackburn, the Most Revd Peter Howell-Jones, with the Bishop of Burnley, the Right Revd Philip North preaching.
French composer Louis Vierne’s dramatic ‘Messe Solennelle’ will provide the eucharist setting, while Blackburn Cathedral Chorus will introduce a traditional Ukrainian carol ‘Deepest Wonder’, set to a Ukrainian folk tune.
Christmas Day Worship
Airing from 10am on Sunday 25th December on BBC One, this lively Christmas Morning family Eucharist will open with a specially composed fanfare.
A liturgy of music, readings and stories will bring to life the wonder of the Nativity with Rt Revd Philip North presiding.
The service will be airing live from Blackburn Cathedral, with a congregation taking part in the readings and prayers.
The Cathedral Choir will lead the congregation in familiar carols for viewers to sing along with at home, including ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘See Amid the Winter’s Snow’, ‘I saw Three Ships’, ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’, and ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’.
On Christmas Night
Strictly Come Dancing star Oti Mabuse will bring Christmas Day to a close on BBC One reading the story of the first Christmas from the Gospel according to St Luke.
She’ll be accompanied by a special recording of ‘Love Came Down at Christmas’ from Bristol’s Exultate Singers.
Songs of Praise – Christmas Carols from Cardiff
Featuring our favourite carols and seasonal music, BBC One‘s much-loved Christmas Day edition of Songs of Praise will be hosted by Aled Jones from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff.
Songs of Praise – Celebrating New Year’s Day
Songs of Praise then returns on Sunday 1st January with its first episode of 2023, hosted by Sean Fletcher on BBC One.
A star-studded programme from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff will kick off the New Year, with Katherine Jenkins and Brenda Edwards performing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as well as our favourite hymns for everyone to sing along to at home.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message
On Sunday 1st January on BBC One, the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd Justin Welby, will reflect on our relationship to each other in society, and the importance of offering care, especially to those who are old or unwell.
His New Year’s Day message will look back at the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as he visits a nursing home in his own Canterbury diocese to focus on what he believes is one of the most pressing challenges facing all of us.