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Live worship, music, and reflections: the BBC unveils its Christmas schedule

08 December 2017


Gearing up for a white Christmas: the cast of Call the Midwife pose outside Nonnatus House for the 2017 Christmas special

Gearing up for a white Christmas: the cast of Call the Midwife pose outside Nonnatus House for the 2017 Christmas special

THE tradition of Christmas worship on the BBC will continue this year with two live televised broadcasts: midnight mass from St Anne’s RC Cathedral, Leeds, on Christmas Eve, and the Christmas Day service from All Saints’, Fulham, in London. Both are on BBC1.

The BBC released its schedule for Christmas religious programming on Wednesday of last week. A Festival of Nine Lessons and and Carols — now in its 63rd year — will be broadcast live from King’s College, Cambridge, on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve. The pre-recorded Carols from King’s will be on BBC2, on Christmas Eve.

Also on Christmas Eve, Radio 3 will broadcast midnight mass, live from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, led by the RC Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Revd Malcolm McMahon. The Christmas morning service will be on Radio 4, from Bath Abbey.

Songs of Praise has four programmes on the Christmas story, including an exploration of Advent, and a service of Christmas carols. Two “Big Sings” will be presented from the Royal Albert Hall by Aled Jones on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The 5000-strong audience will partake in congregational singing, and the soprano Katherine Jenkins, the former Westlife singer Shane Filan, the soprano Mary-Jess, and the boys’ choir Libera will be performing.

Edward Stourton will present a special edition of the Sunday programme on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve, during which music will be broadcast live from Manger Square, in Bethlehem; and the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, will discuss his concerns over the increasing number of homeless women in the UK.

On Christmas Day, Ernie Rea’s special guests on Beyond Belief, on Radio 4, will be the actor Simon Callow, the author Claire Tomalin, and Professor John Bowen.

In the run-up to Christmas, Fern Britton is talking to celebrity guests about their life and beliefs, in Fern Britton Meets . . . on BBC1, including the Paralympian Stef Reid.

Channel 4 has commissioned a one-off documentary, Scousers in a Manger, to be broadcast over the Christmas period. It follows a group of Liverpudlians, the Christmas Decorators, who, for the past five years, have set out to decorate the birthplace of Jesus — Manger Square in Bethlehem, Palestine — in time for Christmas.

The Christmas Decorators are led by the operations director Ged Comerford, who has spent six years with the business, ensuring that the square is decorated and the lights switched on, despite the risks involved in travelling to the West Bank.

The Commissioning Editor for Features at Channel 4, Lizi Wootton, said: “From Merseyside to the Holy Land, we’re looking forward to following Ged, his team, and every bauble on their epic journey. We’re delighted to be working with Daisybeck [Studios] on this hugely ambitious commission, taking us back to where Christmas began.”

“Expect cultural differences, language barriers, and plenty of laughs as the team work against the clock to fulfil a spectacular switch-on of the lights in Bethlehem’s Manger Square,” Channel 4 says.

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