Duke Chapel Celebrates Christmas Season with Services, Concerts and Open House

Christmas Eve services are at 2, 5, 8 and 11 p.m

Rev. Luke Powery speaking at the 2021 Duke Chapel Christmas service.
Rev. Luke Powery speaking at the 2021 Duke Chapel Christmas service.

Duke Chapel will celebrate Christmas with four worship services on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day.

All are welcome to these free, public services; Christmas Eve services often fill up, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early. Free parking is available in the Bryan Center Parking Garage located at 125 Science Drive.

“There is a beautiful message we proclaim every Christmas: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will,’” said the Rev. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke Chapel. “It is a lofty proclamation delivered by angels in heaven, but I want us to remember this Christmas who received these words on earth—a group of humble and very surprised shepherds.

“So, when we want to find Jesus, it is among humble human beings like these simple laborers who guide us,” Powery said. “It is these shepherds, as a spiritual says, who rise up and follow to the place where the Christ-child was born.”

Services on Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24, are:

  • 2 p.m., Children’s service with Christmas carols, a pageant, and scripture readings that tell the story of the birth of Jesus; the service lasts about thirty-five minutes.
  • 5 p.m., The Durham Children’s Choir sings and Powery preaches the sermon; the Amalgam Brass ensemble and chapel organists lead the congregation in singing Christmas hymns.
  • 8 p.m., A service with Holy Communion and Powery preaching; the Amalgam Brass ensemble and chapel organists lead the congregation in singing Christmas hymns.
  • 11 p.m., The traditional Lessons and Carols service by candlelight with scripture readings and Christmas carols, the singers of the Duke Chapel Schola Cantorum, a harpist, and chapel organists lead the music.

The Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols service at 11 p.m. will be broadcast statewide by Spectrum News 1 on Spectrum cable channel 1; it will also be broadcast on the radio on WDNC-AM 620. All four services will be livestreamed on the Duke Chapel website at chapel.duke.edu and broadcast live on the Duke Hospital TV channel 12.

The service on Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25, will be at 11 a.m. with a sermon from the Rev. Kathryn Lester-Bacon, the chapel’s director of Religious Life, and music from the chapel organist, soloists and a string quartet from Mallarmé Music.

The Duke Chapel Choir continues a tradition dating back to 1933 of performing G.F. Handel’s “Messiah” with soloists and orchestra. This year, the concerts are on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 3 at 3 p.m., and Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. The Dec. 3 and 4 concerts are sold out; purchase tickets for the Dec. 2 performance from the Duke Box Office at tickets.duke.edu. A recorded version of this year’s “Messiah” performances will be available on the Chapel’s YouTube channel from December 19 through Christmas Day.

The annual Duke Chapel by Candlelight Christmas Open House will be Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 12-noon to 2 p.m. The chapel will be decorated for the season with candles, wreathes and greenery. See the beauty of the chapel and listen to live performances of familiar Christmas music.

Other events at the chapel during the Advent and Christmas seasons include (free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated):

  • Sunday morning worship services, Sundays at 11 a.m.
  • Duke Chorale Christmas concert, Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m.
  • Tallis Scholars concert presented by Duke Performances (tickets required), Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m.
  • Advent Lessons and Carols, Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m.
  • Choral Evensong, Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m.
  • Choral Society of Durham concert (tickets required), Sunday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m.

The chapel is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day when it closes at 1 p.m. and these university holidays when it closes at 5 p.m.: Dec. 23, Dec. 26, Dec. 30 and Jan. 2. The chapel also closes to the public for weddings and other private ceremonies, so before planning a visit, please check the website calendar at chapel.duke.edu/events.

For more information, visit the chapel website, call 919-681-9488 or email dukechapel@duke.edu.