23 December 2012

Christmas Tales

A few years ago I read a reference from a parishioner at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church about the sermons in verse that the late Rev. David H.C. Read used to preach every Christmas.  This idea set off all kinds of lightbulbs in my head.

I began searching for books by Rev. Read hoping to find a reference to this idea.  I never did find one but I did find some fascinating and wonderful preaching advice.  Then I accepted the call at Judson Memorial Baptist Church and knew that if ever there was a church that could possibly halfway appreciate a sermon in verse it wasthis place.  So for the heck of it I did another search for Christmas sermons in verse by Rev. Read and guess what I found one!  I emailed the Presbyterian archives, nope. I emailed MAPC, nope.  I searched the online archives of several Presbyterian seminary libraries, nope.  Instead good ole www.abebooks.com found me a copy.  I paid more than the usual used book of sermons, but it didnt matter.

The book came and I dove in immediately.  In the beginning Rev. Read answered all of my nuts and bolts questions:  When did he do it?  The Fourth Sunday of Advent (which makes perfect sense).  How long were they?  Shorter than I suspected (which again makes perfect sense).  What were they about?  They were colorful imaginative tales (which makes even more perfect sense).  Thank you Rev. Read.

As Rev. Read said, this was one of if not the most difficult sermon of the year to write.  So I gave myself plenty of time, but as usual it was done the week of.  I even checked out several Dr. Seuss books on tape so I could have some rhyming schemes rollicking around in my head, but I never did get around to playing them.  But I've got a good base for next year.  I also picked up a rhyming dictionary (never knew a wonderful gem of a book existed!).

I chose a story about a goat (because this is the new mascot of JMBC) from the northland (I am in Minnesota after all) who rambled down to Bethlehem and visited the manger (and the source of Jesus' disdain for goats).

The sermon was difficult to write but a blast.  Next year I'll focus more on the meter - this was definitely a free meter, something like a 8, 15, 3, 7, 21... :)

with further ado:

Christmas Tales
Adven IV – 23.Dec.2012
Judson Memorial Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN
The Rev’d G. Travis Norvell

On Christmas Eve long ago
a story took place that went like so
Gunter the goat left his homeland up north
And journeyed south in a tale told henceforth
Called Gunter’s great travel.

He wandered down to Bethlehem
And found the town of bread in much mayhem
He had heard the hay there was great
And hoped he would find a suitable mate
But there was movement in the heaven
And angels singing amen.

Gunter didn’t care, he was tired and wanted anap
Then he heard the lovely soft tap, tap
Of a scared and lonely Joseph & Mary
They needed a place and not just as a precautionary
For Mary was with child and great
And needed a bed before it was too late.
They found an inn and said okay
It aint pretty but it’s a place to stay
the man at the desk said I have no room in my inn here
You can stay in the barn if you don’t mind the smell of the animal’s rear.

Gunter wanted to say
I clean my bum three times a day
But he was a goat and goats cant speak
Unless, unless it is Christmas eve in the midwinter bleak.
Because on that night something magical took place
Mary gave birth in that lowly space
The boy she birthed was scrunched and crying
He woke up Gunter and caused the goat’s blood to go electrifying. 
Gunter lifted his head and said would you please be quiet
It is late at night and my ears are on diet.
Mary and Joseph were completely aghast
They never heard an animal speak like that.

They looked up at the goat and asked what did you say
Gunter smiled and said from now on anything but may

I’m Mary and this isJoseph and this babe is Jesus which means God saves
Gunter asked, then what are you doing in this enclave?
We’ve no place to go and no will care for us
So please Gunter dear, tell the animals, now go and discuss

Keep us safe and sound
Make this stable ironbound
You see this babe is like none other
He’ll be know as everybody’s brother

So Gunther did as he was asked
He charged the animals to guard to the last

But there was nothing to guard against or fear
Just angels singing peace and hallelujah in the atmosphere
They heavens sang peace
And the trees gazed at the new star in the east

The next morning every creature was all tuckered out
And the dreams of Mary and Joseph wondered about

When they animals awoke and tread to speak
All the could do was neigh, moo, and screech
Mary patted Gunter and gave him hay to eat
For what he did was truly great
Gunter nodded and walked outside
For he was a goat full of pride

And that is the story of Gunter the goat
The greatest goat since Noah’s boat

But why you ask did Jesus speak
of goats as so unique
why did he dislike goats and not sheep?
You see he spoke tongue in cheek

Before Gunter said his final goodbye
He trotted over to see the babe and verify
But the babe’s swaddling clothes looked to sweet
All linen and white, they were too good not to eat
So he ate those clothes that covered the child
And left Jesus cold and wild
When Jesus cried Gunter butted the bed
And the baby Jesus never forgot that greedy goats head.

So tomorrow night
when the new star is shining bright
find a goat and talk to him right
see if knows of Gunter the goat
he’ll be the main story not a footnote
then after you talk hold onto your coat
for we all know that part of the story
is about a goat full of glory
who will eat your clothes like you eat chicken cacciatore.

And the response from the congregation, "It was so bad it was good!"

Now to finalize my Christmas Eve message.  


1 comment:

Linda said...

I'm so glad to have the mystery of Jesus' relationship with goats explained. It seems totally plausible to me.
Linda Nelson