A Christmas message from the Dean of Westminster

Sunday, 25th December 2022

A Christmas message from the Dean of Westminster

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, spoke of the joy of Christmas and the importance of understanding one another as he gave the Pause for Thought reflection on BBC Radio 2 on Christmas morning.

Speaking to the long-running Good Morning Christmas programme, the Dean said:

‘Christmas in Westminster Abbey is not a day, it is a month. We sang our first Carols on December the first. That is good, practice is important. At a State Funeral, at a coronation we need to get it right. Actually, we want to get it right all the time. So, we practice, choir boys rehearse, so do organists and clergy learn to walk in patterns. We practice.
‘Even so, things can go wrong. They went very famously wrong one Christmas Day years ago. It was 1066, the year William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings. He fixed his coronation for Christmas Day 1066, here, in Westminster Abbey. Since 1066, every king and queen who has been crowned in this country has been crowned in Westminster Abbey. That is why King Charles III will be here next May.
‘Now, in 1066, William had a point to make. He was a Conqueror. He wanted people to know he was their King. He wanted them to say he was King. So, at the coronation, the people were asked ‘Is this your King?’ They had shout ‘Yes, it is’. They were asked in French, for the Normans. Then in Anglo-Saxon, for the English, ‘Is this your King’. The Saxons gave a great roar - ‘Yes it is’. An Anglo-Saxon roar. The trouble was that King William’s soldiers, outside, did not speak Anglo Saxon and they thought the noise was a riot in the Abbey. The soldiers panicked and they set fire to London on Christmas Day.
‘Practice and preparation do not always pay off.
‘Christmas is wonderful. It is usually wonderful because people have prepared for it. Christmas goes wrong when we do not listen, when we jump to conclusions. Shepherds, wise men and the mother at the Christmas crib looked, listened and wondered. Others, then and later, did not understand, chose not to listen, jumped to wrong conclusions.
‘I hope your Christmas is joyful and peaceful, I hope the preparation pays off. Above all, I hope that this Christmas we might all listen better and understand one another more.’

How to listen

Good Morning Christmas is available for the next 30 days via BBC Sounds. The Dean’s Pause for Thought reflection begins at 8:25am.