One of the treasures of Anglicanism is the Christmas season service called "A Festival of Lessons and Carols", "lessons" being the very-Anglican term for bible readings. It is a service simple in concept but powerful in execution especially when attention is given to the music and the congregation joins in fully. There are usually nine bible readings, beginning with Genesis, where we are reminded of our original sin, the reason why Christ came. It continues through the Old Testament prophecies that tell of the coming of Christ and ends with the Gospel readings we are all most familiar with. (Wikipedia article here.)
From its modest beginnings in a temporary wooden cathedral in Truro, England in the late 19th Century, it has expanded throughout the globe, first to other Anglican churches and then to other denominations. Many of the Anglican Use parishes continue the tradition. My "home" AU parish in Boston, the Congregation of Saint Athanasius, has their annual Lessons and Carols service this Sunday, December 26, at 5:00 P.M. One of the most famous such services comes from King's College in Cambridge, England, which the BBC broadcasts live and then makes available on their website for online listening here. More information about the service is available from the King's College's website including an order of service and a history. One example of a Catholic version can be found here on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, though I would have chosen more traditional carols and ones that go together better. The styles seem to clash. "Ave Maria" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain" are in my mind both too dissimilar styles to go together in a single piece and not Christmas carols.
Living in the Philippines, I miss Anglican Christmas Eve services, including Lessons and Carols. They speak to my soul in a way that other services do not. I am not sure what it is exactly. It is hard to put a non-verbal experience like spirituality into words. But I do know that it has something to do with the music and the conmunal experience of singing familiar, generations-old songs together. Lessons and Carols take the Christmas music we all love, and are bombarded by for months, and creates a communal singing experience, and then intersperses the music with lessons about the meaning of Christmas, all with an Anglican sensibility and attention to detail. The carols are not just mood music to get through the boring bits but integral to the service, to the teaching involved. Without the carols, the lessons have less punch, and without the lessons, the carols are merely tunes that I heard at the mall. Together in this simple service, they remind us body and soul of the reason for the season.