This Christmas, the BBC is bringing audiences a wonderful selection of festive treats across television and radio, including live worship, traditional carols and musical celebration.
In a new series for advent, Sally Phillips meets three well-known faces – Revd Richard Coles, Lemn Sissay and Shirley Ballas – to explore how their memories of Christmas reflect the changes they have gone through in their lives, careers, family and faith.
Christmas worship on BBC One begins with the traditional celebration of the First Mass of Christmas, and Blessing of the Crib, broadcast live from Blackburn Cathedral.
BBC Two brings viewers the much-loved Carols from King’s, with a feast of music and spoken word from the magical, candlelit Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, directed by Daniel Hyde.
A specially composed fanfare will introduce a lively Christmas Morning family Eucharist from Blackburn Cathedral and later in the day, Aled Jones presents the Christmas Day edition of Songs of Praise from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, packed with favourite carols and seasonal music.
Bringing the day to a close, dancer and presenter Oti Mabuse reads the story of the first Christmas from the Gospel according to St Luke.
Live on Christmas Day morning on BBC Radio 2, the Revd Kate Bottley celebrates with festive greetings and music followed later in the day with soul star Mica Paris’s Gospel Christmas bringing listeners the perfect playlist of carols, hymns and gospel standards.
A specially commissioned new piece of music for the BBC centenary from Belfast-based composer Paul Campbell reimagines the story of the Journey of the Magi on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle. BBC Radio 4’s A Festival Of Nine Lessons And Carols presents a service of carols, hymns, and readings live from the candlelit Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. The Christmas Service this year comes from Bath Abbey, led by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, The Rt Revd Michael Beasley.
In addition, there will be further special programming across BBC Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and on local radio.
Daisy Scalchi, Head of Religion and Ethics, BBC Television says: “We have a superb mix of traditional carols, festive music, spiritual contemplation and live worship to mark this Christmas. 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.”
Tim Pemberton, Head of Religion and Ethics, BBC Radio says: “This Christmas, BBC Radio presents a host festive of programmes offering reflection, celebration and companionship. Mica Paris, Revd. Kate Bottley and Aled Jones bring gospel, carols and festive greetings, and there’s plenty of opportunities to contemplate the year across our stations. I hope our programmes will provide audiences with festive cheer as we look forward to what the next year has in store.”
My Life at Christmas – with Sally Phillips
In a special series of films for advent, actress and comedian Sally Phillips meets three well-known faces to explore how their memories of Christmas reflect the enormous changes they have gone through in their lives, careers, family and faith. Revd Richard Coles reflects on his Christmas journey from childhood chorister and Communards fame, to life as a vicar and the death of his beloved life-partner David. Strictly Come Dancing’s Shirley Ballas talks about her rise to dance success – culminating in a tragic Christmas that turned her life upside down. And poet Lemn Sissay reveals how a childhood in the care system gave him the passion to make Christmas special for hundreds of other care leavers.
Saturday 24 December
The traditional celebration of the First Mass of Christmas, and Blessing of the Crib, will be broadcast live from Blackburn Cathedral. Set in the heart of Blackburn’s town centre, the modern gothic splendour of the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin with St Paul, stands on a site that has been used for Christian worship for over 1300 years.
The Dean of Blackburn, the Most Revd Peter Howell-Jones, will preside and introduce the service with the Bishop of Burnley, the Right Revd Philip North preaching. The eucharist setting will be taken from French composer Louis Vierne’s dramatic “Messe Solennelle.”
Blackburn Cathedral Chorus, under the Director of Music John Robinson, will introduce a traditional Ukrainian Carol “Deepest wonder” set to a Ukrainian folk tune. In addition, they’ll be singing well-loved favourites such as “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day” and “On Christmas night all Christians sing”.
The choir will be joined by a congregation from Blackburn’s diverse community – which along with nearby Darwen, forms one of Lancashire’s largest population centres. Favourite congregational carols will include: “Of the Father’s love begotten”; “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come all ye Faithful”
Christmas Day Worship
Sunday 25 December at 10am
A specially composed fanfare will introduce a lively Christmas Morning family Eucharist from Blackburn Cathedral. The wonder of the Nativity; the Journey of Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds will be captured in a liturgy of music, readings and story. The Eucharist, presided over by the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, will feature the uplifting and joyous setting of Bob Chilcott’s ‘A Little Jazz Mass’. Broadcast live with a congregation who’ll be taking part in the readings and prayers, the story of Christmas will be shared by the Dean of Blackburn, the Most Revd Peter Howell-Jones.
The Cathedral Choir of girls, boys and adult singers – directed by John Robinson, and accompanied by the cathedral’s Organist in Residence, John Hoskin – will lead the congregation in familiar carols to sing along to 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
Sunday 25 December
Winding down Christmas Day to a gentle close, Ballroom Dancer and TV panellist Oti Mabuse reads the story of the first Christmas from the Gospel according to St Luke. Oti lends her own voice to the familiar Bible story of the angels appearing to shepherds with the news of the birth of a baby – born in a stable in Bethlehem. Accompanying Oti’s reading is a special recording of “Love Came Down at Christmas” from Bristol’s Exultate Singers, conducted by their founder, David Ogden.
Songs of Praise
Sunday 25 December
Christmas Carols from Cardiff – Aled Jones presents the Christmas Day edition of Songs of Praise from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, packed with favourite carols and seasonal music. Llandaff Cathedral Choir perform In The Bleak Mid-Winter, reigning Songs of Praise Gospel Singer Of The Year Patrice Campbell sings the modern classic Mary, Did You Know and Aled and Russell Watson have the perfect song for Christmas Day- Mistletoe and Wine.
Sunday 1 January
Celebrating New Year’s Day – Sean Fletcher hosts the first Songs of Praise of 2023, which kicks off the New Year with a star-studded programme from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff. Katherine Jenkins and Brenda Edwards perform a song that’s close to their hearts, You’ll Never Walk Alone. We hear the male Welsh voices of The Morriston Orpheus Choir as they sing World In Union, and there’s a stunning performance of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma from opera star Freddie De Tommaso. Plus, there are favourite hymns for everyone to sing along to.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message
Sunday 1 January
In a year that saw the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the subsequent crowds of people from all over the world who queued to pay their last respects to her, The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd Justin Welby, reflects on our relationship to each other in society, and the importance of offering care, especially to those who are old or unwell. In this New Year’s Day message, 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.
Carols From Kings
Saturday 24 December
Carols from King’s is set in the stunning, vaulted, gothic chapel of King’s College Cambridge. The candle-lit service celebrates the Christmas story in music, readings and prayers with an invited congregation of college members and guests.
The world-renowned choir, directed by Daniel Hyde, sings carols old and new, from Peter Warlock’s setting of the medieval Adam Lay Ybounden, to more contemporary music from modern female composers such as Errollyn Wallen with “Peace on Earth” and former King’s College student Judith Weir, whose “Illuminare Jerusalem” is based on a medieval manuscript referencing verses from Isaiah. A special item this year is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” which will mark the 150th Anniversary of one of the UK’s favourite composers.
The choir also leads the congregation in popular carols, including O Come All Ye Faithful, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.
The service will be introduced by the Dean, the Revd Dr Stephen Cherry. The story of the Nativity is told in the words of the King James Bible and reflected on in poetry read by members of the College.
Carols from King’s was inspired by A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols which has been broadcast by the BBC Radio for more than 90 years. The television programme gives viewers an opportunity to enjoy the music in the setting of the of the chapel’s unique architecture, containing as it does the largest fan-vaulted stone ceiling in the world and some of the finest examples of medieval stained glass.
Young Chorister of the Year
Sunday 11 December, 8pm – 9pm (Repeated Sunday 25 December, 5am – 6am)
Radio 2 has once again joined together with Songs of Praise to find the BBC Young Chorister of the Year 2022.
In a festive feast for the ears, six talented hopefuls perform favourite Christmas songs and carols in the stunning surroundings of The Monastery, Manchester.
From ten semi-finalists, three boys and three girls have been chosen to sing in the final, hosted by Revd Kate Bottley and Aled Jones.
It’s up to the panel of expert judges – Katherine Jenkins, Howard Goodall and David Grant – to decide who will be taking home the title and trophy.
The winner then takes to the stage to perform a special arrangement of O Come, O Come Emmanuel with Aled Jones and all the semi-finalists.
Presenters: Revd Kate Bottley and Aled Jones
Producer: Katharine Longworth for BBC Religion
Good Morning Christmas 2022
Sunday 25 December, 8am-10am
Live on Christmas Day, the Revd Kate Bottley celebrates with carols, festive greetings and a special message. The programme will feature a specially curated mix of listeners’ favourite seasonal songs and sing-a-long carols. Kate will also have inspirational stories from those spreading cheer today and will be hearing from chefs from across the globe who are busy preparing Christmas lunch to create a feast of plenty for those in need.
Presenter – Revd Kate Bottley
Producer – Jenny Smith, BBC Audio
Mica’s Gospel Christmas
Sunday 25 December, 7pm-9pm
Soul star Mica Paris returns to her gospel roots, sharing personal stories and memories of the music she grew up with and the first records that moved her, with a perfect playlist of carols, hymns and traditional and contemporary gospel standards for Christmas. Multi-award-winning singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé joins Mica, bringing festive cheer to the Radio 2 listeners on Christmas night, and sharing personal memories of her favourite festive gospel tracks.
Featuring tracks from the likes of Mahalia Jackson, The Clark Sisters, Aretha Franklin, Walter Hawkins, Mary Mary, Whitney Houston, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Mariah Carey, and many more.
An hourlong edition of this programme will be available on BBC Sounds from Thursday 1 December.
Presenter – Mica Paris
Producer – Jenny Smith, BBC Audio
In a new series spread across three weeks, Compline explores how liturgy, prayer and music can interact with one another in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It presents four reflective services of night prayer for each Advent with words and music for the end of the day.
Thursday 1 December, 11pm-11.30pm
First week of Advent from the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, London, , including works by Tallis, Judith Bingham, and Palestrina, sung by The Gesualdo Six.
Thursday 8 December, 11pm-11.30pm
Second week of Advent from St Paul’s Church, Withington, Manchester, including works by Mark Sirett, Stainer, and Poston, sung by the HeartEdge Manchester Choral Scholars.
Thursday 15 December, 11pm-11.30pm
Third week of Advent from the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Tetbury, including works by Vaughan Williams, Palestrina, Tallis, and Rutter, sung by St Martin’s Voices.
Thursday 22 December, 11pm-11.30pm
Last week of Advent from the Chapter House of York Minster, sung by the Ebor Singers.
Produced by Ben Collingwood
EBU Christmas around Europe Part 1
Sunday 18 December, 9am-3pm
A day-long festival of Christmas music and singing from across Europe and Canada in the European Broadcasting Union’s annual Christmas music day.
Choirs and ensembles come together to celebrate the wonder of Christmas. Travelling first to Montreal with L’Harmonie des Saisons; then to Lleida in Spain, with María Espada and Bach Collegium Barcelona, and then from Prague listeners can hear the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and Children’s Choir, and from Copenhagen in Denmark, festive music by British composers.
Finally, there is music to be heard in Germany from Munich and Frankfurt.
Presented by Andrew McGregor
Produced by Elizabeth Arno for BBC Radio 3
EBU Christmas around Europe Part 2
Sunday 18 December, 4pm-10pm
A day-long festival of Christmas music from across Europe, in the European Broadcasting Union’s annual Christmas music day, continues with concerts from Saarbrucken, Gothenburg, Utrecht, Hamburg, Reykjavik and London, presented by Hannah French.
Presented by Hannah French
Produced by Tony Sellors for BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 Breakfast: Christmas Carol Competition Special
Friday 23 December, 6.30am-9am
Nearly 1000 entries have been whittled down to just six pieces that the public vote have been voting on, but which one will be the listener’s favourite? Find out when Petroc Trelawny announces the winning carol of this year’s BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition in Radio 3’s Breakfast programme between 6.30 and 9.00 this morning.
The Journey of the Magi
Sunday 1 January, 7.30pm
Though the Wise Men make only a brief appearance in Saint Matthew’s account of the Nativity story, their visit to Bethlehem has inspired generations of artists.
W.R. Rodgers Christmas reimagining of the story of the wise men and their visit to Bethlehem was originally broadcast in a poem for BBC radio in 1948. He describes their ‘zigzag’ journey through the seasons of the year in their quest for meaning – something that he says they found in ‘the child within themselves’ just at that moment when all hope seemed lost.
Belfast-based composer Paul Campbell has written a new piece of music to accompany W.R. Rodgers’ poem about the Magi. Composed as a special commission to mark the BBC’s centenary, and performed by the Ulster Orchestra, his work blends words and music in fresh combination and reflects the inventiveness of the poem’s original broadcast.
Narrated by Michelle Fairley and Stuart Graham with an introduction by the award-winning poet, Michael Longley.
Producer: Mark Adair for BBC Radio 3
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Saturday 24 December, 3pm – 4.30pm (repeated on BBC Radio 3 Sunday 25 December, 1pm – 3pm)
A service of carols, hymns, and readings live from the candlelit Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.
For millions listening on radio and online around the world, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, live from the candlelit Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, marks the beginning of Christmas. It is based around nine Bible readings which tell the story of the loving purposes of God. They are interspersed with carols old and new, sung by the world-famous Chapel choir who also lead the congregation in traditional Christmas hymns.
A new work has been commissioned for the Christmas Eve service every year since 1983; a tradition begun by Sir Stephen Cleobury. For 2022, Matthew Martin has chosen to set the text of the famous medieval carol ‘Angelus ad Virginem’.
A number of pieces by significant twentieth century composers such as Peter Warlock, Judith Weir, Errollyn Wallen, and Roger Quilter, sit alongside traditional carols in arrangements by Sir David Willcocks, Christopher Robinson, John Rutter, and Philip Ledger.
Producer: Ben Collingwood for BBC Radio 4
Saturday 24 December, 11.30pm – 12.45am
The traditional Christmas Eve celebration of Midnight Mass comes live from Leeds Cathedral.
Christmas begins with a joyous celebration of the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord including the Blessing of the Crib and favourite carols sung by the Cathedral Choir and congregation.
Producer: Katharine Longworth
Sunday 25 December, 7am-8am
Hope for the Nations.
Bath Abbey is a house of prayer for all nations, visited by people from around the world. The service celebrates the joy of Christmas and explores the good news at the heart of Christmas: God makes known his love in Christ, to and for all people. During the service the congregation hears about the Abbey’s work with international visitors alongside the many who cross the Seven Bridge from Wales to shop at the hugely popular Bath Christmas market. The service also celebrates the Abbey’s links to the late Queen Elizabeth II, and there are prayers for peace and justice following an interview with a refugee family from Ukraine. The preacher is the recently installed Bishop of Bath and Wells The Rt Revd Michael Beasley.
Hark how the bells (Leontovych arr Wilhousky, Ukraine)
O come all ye faithful
Isaiah 9: 6-7
Christmas Bells (Longfellow)
Suo gan (Welsh lullaby arr Guest)
Joy to the world
Away in a manger (arr Williams)
Mary Had a baby (Sargent)
O little town of Bethlehem
I wonder as I wander (Rutti)
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Leader: Revd Stephen Girling, Abbey Missioner
Huw Williams, Director of Music
Martin Baker (Organ)
Producer: Philip Billson for BBC Radio 4
Monday 26 December, 12.15am – 12.30am
Where Are We Now?
After a year of upheaval and change at home and abroad, Actor Director Adjoa Andoh reflects on childhood Christmases past, and Christmases present as children grow and the world shifts. Weaving in Psalms, music and memory we journey with Adjoa in her hopeful quest.
Producer: Carmel Lonergan for BBC Radio 4
Sunday 1 January, 8.10am – 8.50am
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, preaches on the transforming power of grace and its abiding power in our world today, on the two-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the first public appearance of John Newton’s hymn Amazing Grace.
The service is led by Canon Rachel Mann who explores John Newton’s encounter with God’s grace and his transition from slave trader to abolitionist that followed.
Featuring a broad variety of arrangements of the famous hymn and reflections from those who’ve performed or adapted it, including Bob Chilcott, Karen Gibson, John Rutter and Will Todd.
The Readings are: 2 Peter 1: 3– 11 and John 1. 9-18
Producer: Alexa Good for BBC Radio 4
Sunday 8 January, 8.10am – 8.50am
The indestructability of hope.
‘Christmas brings the indestructibility of hope in times of the greatest hopelessness. As long as we celebrate this holiday, we can neither be defeated nor destroyed. This is the message that Ukraine is trying to convey to the world as it celebrates its own Christmas Day.’
From Christmas music to gifts and food, as well as a look back through the country’s rich and troubled history through the perspective of the festive season, this Sunday Worship explores Ukraine’s unique Christmas traditions – a powerful reminder of the strength of holding on to your culture and beliefs, even as others try to take everything from you. With testimony from a survivor of the siege of Mariupol.
Nadiyka Gerbish is a Ukrainian writer, podcaster, and publisher. She has written nineteen books, many of which have become bestsellers and have won numerous awards. With Yaroslav Hrytsak, a Ukrainian historian and public intellectual, Professor of the Ukrainian Catholic University and Honorary Professor of the National University of Kyiv, who explores the unique political history of Ukrainian carols.
Homily: Revd Yuriy Shchurko, Dean of the Theology and Philosophy Faculty at the Ukrainian Catholic University.
Prayers and blessing: The Metropolitan Archbishop of The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Borys Gudziak.
Producer: Philip Billson for BBC Radio 4
BBC One Scotland
Christmas Celebrationon BBC One Scotland, brings a mix of words and music presented by Sally Magnusson to take us from last moments of Christmas Eve in to Christmas Morning. The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, in Edinburgh, will be the dramatic and fitting backdrop to this year’s programme. Located in the city’s West End, the church is more generally known as St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. The beautiful setting will be a showcase for readings from pupils of St Mary’s Music School, Edinburgh, with music from Celtic Worship and Unoma Okudo and Ifedade Thomas. Christmas carols and hymns will be performed by the National Youth Choir of Scotland’s Chamber Choir and St Mary’s Cathedral Choir. Joining the singing in the Christmas Eve programme will be members of the Cathedral’s congregation alongside representatives of other Edinburgh churches and choirs accompanied by Alba Brass.
Christmas Reflections at the Quay on Christmas Day is led by the Revd Doug Gay, Senior Lecturer at Glasgow University. From the foyer of BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters, contributors include Prof Roisin Coll, director of the St Andrews Foundation for Catholic Teacher Education and Victoria Turner and Sam Nwokoro, both PhD students at Edinburgh University. Music comes from St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Palmerston Place, Edinburgh and will feature carols and songs by the NYCOS Chamber Choir, NYCOS National Girls Choir, Celtic Worship, Unoma Okudo and Ifedade Thomas
Saturday 24 December, 11.30pm-12.05am
This year’s Radio Scotland Christmas service features carol-singing and readings from the University of Dundee’s Candlelit Carol Service in St Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Dundee. There’ll be reflections by the University Chaplain, The Revd Dr Fiona Douglas, the conductor is John-Luke Harris and organist is Stuart Muir.
New Every Sunday
Sunday 25 December, 7.30am – 8am
Carols, favourite Christmas choral music and reflection for Christmas morning with writer and broadcaster, Anna Magnusson.
Christmas Morning With Cathy Macdonald and Tony Kearney
Sunday 25 December 8am – 9am
Join Cathy MacDonald and Tony Kearney for an hour of festive reflections on the theme of home at Christmas. Featuring personal stories of what home means for different people at Christmas and homely traditions from around the world as well as the memories of Christmas past in the MacDonald and Kearney households, this hour will be sure to bring some festive joy on Christmas Morning.
BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle begin celebrating the festive season on Christmas Eve in the company of Kerry and Ralph McLean from 8pm-12.05am.
During this four-hour programme, The Journey Of The Magi will broadcast from 11pm. Belfast-based composer Paul Campbell has written a new piece of music to accompany W.R. Rodgers’ poem about the Magi. Composed as a special commission to mark the BBC’s centenary, his work blends words and music in fresh combination and reflects the inventiveness of the poem’s original broadcast. His score was written over several months in mid-2022 and was performed for this recording by the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast.
The Journey of the Magi is narrated by Michelle Fairley and Stuart Graham, with an introduction by the award-winning poet, Michael Longley.
Then on Christmas Day a specially extended Morning Service from 10-11am reflects and gives thanks for Christmas, with a traditional and contemporary mix of music and readings.
Fr Brian D’Arcy shares his unique Christmas thoughts reflections and music choices from 11-12pm, and at 5pm join Richard Yarr for Sounds Sacred as he presents a seasonal Christmas time selection of music. Listeners to BBC Radio Foyle can hear a special Christmas edition of Rejoice with James McClelland.
Throughout the week – from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day – Thought For The Day on BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle will feature a special series of reflections from contributors on the theme of hope.
Radio Cymru – On Christmas Day, Yr Oedfa is an extended service and we will also broadcast a special carol concert featuring BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
This festive season across Local BBC Radio in England at midnight on Christmas Eve, you can hear a specially commissioned programme called ‘Keeping Faith at Christmas’.
Presented by Louise Hulland of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, it will feature uplifting, heart-warming, and inspirational seasonal stories to put you in the Christmas spirit. These include a mother and son who have both beaten addiction, and rebuilt their relationship as well as hearing how Ukrainian refugees are celebrating their first Christmas away from home.
We also take a look back at the Queen’s faith as revealed through her Christmas Day messages; hear from some other faith groups about their work with the King, and discuss what King Charles III could say in his very first Christmas Day speech. As always, there will also be lovely carols and Christmas music across Local BBC Radio.
The Christmas Day service will be on at 0700 across all 39 Local BBC Radio stations and will be led by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell and will feature readings and prayers from people around the country.