Instead of a typical Christmas sermon, I wanted to do something that wove in storytelling and singing. Rather than using scripture to tell the story of Mary and Joseph, the Animals, the Angel, the Shepherds, and the Wise Ones, I found poems from poets across the century. Inspired by the Pentatonix’s version of Drummer Boy, I separated the stories with each stanza of the song – making up a couple more stanzas to fill out the story.
Before the sermon time, each kid was given a domroo drum to decorate with symbols and words of hope, wonder, and love. With the support of the choir, piano, and drums handed out to the congregation, we led into a collective and interactive story telling of Christ’s birth.
The poems can be read by the pastor or children or split up by a variety of different worshippers. For seamless transition, you may want a piano to play in the background and then swell to lead folks in to sing the appropriate stanzas. Kids and adults are then invited to drum during the “pa rum pa pum pum” sections.
Mary and Joseph
Joseph, mild and noble, bent above the straw:
A pale girl, a frail girl, suffering he saw;
“O my Love, my Mary, my bride, I pity thee!”
“Nay, Dear,” said Mary, “all is well with me!”
“Baby, my baby, O my babe,” she sang.
Suddenly the golden night all with music rang.
Angels leading shepherds, shepherds leading sheep:
The silence of worship broke the mother’s sleep.
All the meek and lowly of all the world were there;
Smiling, she showed them that her Child was fair,
“Baby, my baby,” kissing Him she said.
Suddenly a flaming star through the heavens sped.
Three old men and weary knelt them side by side,
The world’s wealth forswearing, majesty and pride;
Worldly might and wisdom before the Babe bent low:
Weeping, maid Mary said, “I love Him so!”
“Baby, my baby,” and the Baby slept.
Suddenly on Calvary all the olives wept.
(Mary’s Baby by Shaemas O’Sheel, 1886-1954)
Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, On my drum?
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,
“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
(The Oxen by Thomas Hardy, 1915)
Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum, Me and my drum.
In each heart lies a Bethlehem,
an inn where we must ultimately answer
whether there is room or not.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we experience our own advent in his.
When we are Bethlehem bound
we can no longer look the other way
conveniently not seeing starts
not hearing voices.
We can no longer excuse ourselves by busily
tending our sheep or our kingdoms.
This Advent let’s go to Bethlehem
and see this thing that the Lord has made known to us.
In the midst of shopping sprees
let’s ponder in our hearts the Gift of Gifts.
Through the tinsel
let’s look for the gold of the Christmas Star.
In the excitement and confusion, in the merry chaos,
let’s listen for the brush of angels’ wings.
This Advent, let’s go to Bethlehem
and find our kneeling places.
(In Search of Our Kneeling Places by Ann Weems, 1980)
Hark! The angels sing, pa rum pum pum pum
Glory to the newborn King, pa rum pum pum pum
Joining triumphant skies, pa rum pum pum pum
Angelic host proclaim, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum
Hallelujah! Pa rum pum pum pum, beat of the drum.
Like small curled feathers, white and soft,
The little clouds went by,
Across the moon, and past the stars,
And down the western sky:
In upland pastures, where the grass
With frosted dew was white,
Like snowy clouds the young sheep lay,
That first, best Christmas night.
The shepherds slept; and, glimmering faint,
With twist of thin, blue smoke,
Only their fire’s crackling flames
The tender silence broke—
Save when a young lamb raised his head,
Or, when the night wind blew,
A nesting bird would softly stir,
Where dusky olives grew—
With finger on her solemn lip,
Night hushed the shadowy earth,
And only stars and angels saw
The little Saviour’s birth;
Then came such flash of silver light
Across the bending skies,
The wondering shepherds woke, and hid
Their frightened, dazzled eyes!
And all their gentle sleepy flock
Looked up, then slept again,
Nor knew the light that dimmed the stars
Brought endless Peace to men—
Nor even heard the gracious words
That down the ages ring—
The Christ is born! the Lord has come,
Good-will on earth to bring!
Then o’er the moonlit, misty fields,
Dumb with the world’s great joy,
The shepherds sought the white-walled town,
Where lay the baby boy—
And oh, the gladness of the world,
The glory of the skies,
Because the longed-for Christ looked up
In Mary’s happy eyes!
(While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night by Margaret Deland, 1907)
Silent, holy night, pa rum pum pum pum
The shepherds quake in fright, pa rum pum pum pum
Glory from heav’n afar, pa rum pum pum pum
Singing Allelujah! pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum
Christ, the Savior’s born, pa rum pum pum pum, follow the drum.
Star of the East, that long ago
Brought wise men on their way
Where, angels singing to and fro,
The Child of Bethlehem lay–
Above that Syrian hill afar
Thou shinest out to-night, O Star!
Star of the East, the night were drear
But for the tender grace
That with thy glory comes to cheer
Earth’s loneliest, darkest place;
For by that charity we see
Where there is hope for all and me.
Star of the East! show us the way
In wisdom undefiled
To seek that manger out and lay
Our gifts before the child–
To bring our hearts and offer them
Unto our King in Bethlehem!
(Star Of The East by Eugene Field, 1912)
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum, When we come.
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”
“Now the Work of Christmas Begins,”
(Quote in “The Search For Common Ground; An Inquiry Into The Basis Of Man’s Experience Of Community” by Howard Thurman, 1971)