BBC reveals Christmas 2023’s religious programming line-up

This year’s festive schedule of religious programming on the BBC has been announced!

The Christmas period will offer another great range of musical celebrations, traditional carols, live worship, and spiritual contemplation.

“This Christmas we have a wide variety of programming to get viewers in the festive spirit,” commented Daisy Scalchi, Head of Religion and Ethics for BBC Television.

“I hope that our selection of carols, live worship, faith-inspired music, in-depth interviews and spiritual contemplation will bring viewers together at Christmas as we look forward to the year ahead,” she said.

Alongside three Songs of Praise specials, highlights will include Midnight Mass, broadcast live from Portsmouth Cathedral, and a joyful Christmas Morning service live from Manchester Cathedral, full of hope, peace and goodwill.

BBC Two’s Carols from King’s is back to take viewers into the candlelit, fan-vaulted Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge for the much-loved annual celebration of the Christmas story, told through music, readings and prayers.

There’ll also be a New Year Message from Archbishop of Canterbury delivered from the RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Journalist and broadcaster Adrian Chiles returns too with a second season of My Life at Christmas.

This time he’ll be meeting dancer Oti Mabuse, veteran BBC news reporter and World Affairs editor John Simpson, and stars of stage and screen Martin and Shirlie Kemp as Chiles explores how how their festive memories reflect their lives, careers, family and faith.

Here’s the full list of dates for the Christmas line-up and the BBC’s description of each program:


Sunday 3 December 2023

Songs of Praise (BBC One)

We begin our celebrations on the first Sunday of Advent with Aled Jones hosting final of the BBC Young Chorister of the Year, as six of the best junior and senior choristers perform a favourite Christmas choice.

In a very special programme to celebrate the beautiful music enjoyed at this time of year, Pam Rhodes is joined by fellow hymn expert Andrew Gant as they discuss some of the nation’s most loved carols. Our own Songs of Praise presenters also reveal their favourite carols and what Christmas means to them.

In County Durham, the Rev. Kate Bottley visits a dementia-friendly community where local school children and residents of a care home come together to mark the birth of Jesus as they rehearse their nativity play.

My Life at Christmas with Adrian Chiles – Episode 1: Oti Mabuse (BBC One)

Dancer Oti Mabuse recalls her journey from a South African township to becoming a two-time Strictly Come Dancing champion, and how a new arrival this year is going to change her Christmases forever.


Sunday 10 December 2023

My Life at Christmas with Adrian Chiles – Episode 2: John Simpson (BBC One)

Veteran BBC news reporter and World Affairs Editor John Simpson discusses his family, faith and a career filled with Christmases spent in far flung places across the world – from dangerous war zones and political revolutions to devastating tropical storms.


Sunday 17 December 2023

My Life at Christmas with Adrian Chiles – Episode 3: Martin & Shirlie Kemp (BBC One)

And Martin and Shirlie Kemp open their garden grotto to Adrian to share their Christmas memories, from the heady days of 80s pop stardom and TV & film success to becoming a family and coping with the loss of loved ones and recovering from ill health.


Sunday 24 December 2023

Songs of Praise (BBC One)

On Christmas Eve, with a congregation of over 2000 people at the magnificent Sheffield City Hall, Aled Jones leads the carol singing with performances from Katherine Jenkins, Michael Ball, Strictly Come Dancing’s lead vocalist Tommy Blaize and the newly crowned Young Choristers of the Year.

Carols from King’s (BBC Two)

The candlelit, fan-vaulted Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge is the stunning setting for this much anticipated annual celebration of the Christmas story, told through music, readings and prayers with an invited congregation of college members and guests.

Led by the Dean, the Revd Dr Stephen Cherry, the service begins in the time-honoured way as a solo chorister sings the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. The world renowned choir, directed by Daniel Hyde, sings carols old and new, including Silent Night (arr. John Rutter), In the Bleak Midwinter (Harold Darke), In the Stillness (Sally Beamish) and Child in a Manager (arr. John Rutter).

The choir leads the congregation in popular carols, including O Come All Ye Faithful, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The story of the Nativity is read by members of King’s College in the words of the King James Bible and in poems by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, Marion Strobel, Thomas Hardy and Walter de la Mare.

Midnight Mass from Portsmouth Cathedral (BBC One)

The traditional celebration of the First Eucharist of Christmas and Blessing of the Crib, will be broadcast live from the ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ situated in the historic heart of the city of Portsmouth. The Dean of Portsmouth, the Very Revd Dr Anthony Cane, will introduce and lead the service with Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Frost preaching.

Music will include the well-loved carols O Little Town of Bethlehem, It Came Upon The Midnight Clear and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The Organist and Master of the Choristers, Dr David Price will lead the Cathedral Choir accompanied by musicians of His Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Service.


Monday 25 December 2023

Christmas Morning Service from Manchester Cathedral (BBC One)

A joyful service of hope, peace and goodwill, live from Manchester Cathedral on Christmas morning led by the Dean, the Very Revd Rogers Govender. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Prof David Walker, will preach.

The wonder of the Nativity; the Journey of Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds will be captured in a liturgy of music and readings. Manchester Cathedral Choir, directed by the Organist & Master of the Choristers, Christopher Stokes, will lead the congregation in some of the nation’s favourite carols, including O Come, All Ye Faithful, Unto Us Is Born a Son and While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night.

On Christmas Night (BBC One)

As Christmas Day draws to a close, a well-known celebrity narrates the story of the first Christmas from Luke’s Gospel, when angels appeared to shepherds to proclaim the news of Jesus’s birth. The reading is followed by a familiar carol, performed by a solo singer or choir.


Sunday 31 December 2023

Songs of Praise (BBC One)

Completing our festive offering is a New Year’s Eve special hosted by the UK’s most successful mezzo-soprano, Katherine Jenkins. Katherine is joined by an array of celebrated guests including Aled Jones, the Gospel Choir of the Year winner and opera singer Carly Paoli to sing out 2023.


Monday 1 January 2024

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message (BBC One)

For his 2024 New Year Message, the Archbishop of Canterbury, explores what it means to serve your community and your country. This year, Archbishop Welby is focusing on those people who personify the notion of “service”, and sometimes even self-sacrifice: the British Armed Forces. He’ll be at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, which has nearly 6000 service personnel, plus hundreds of civilian staff. It’s home to the RAF’s Air Mobility Force, and is also where desperately needed humanitarian aid is loaded onto planes and flown to parts of the world experiencing devastating war and conflict as well as natural disaster.


All these specials will also be streaming on BBC iPlayer in the UK immediately after broadcast for viewers to catch up whenever they want.

We don’t have exact details yet, but in previous years some of the BBC’s religious Christmas programming has been made available on the same day in the US and internationally on BritBox.