wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                          back to advent forward to epiphany    HOME

Giovanni Bellini<br /><i>Madonna and Child</i>, c. 1480/85<br />Oil on panel, 53.7 x 42.5 cm (21 1/8 x 16 3/4 in.)<br />National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Samuel H. Kress Collection<br />Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art

poems and readings for


Most of the pieces listed here were written for carol services and are used at events each year in the UK and elsewhere. They may all be copied and used free of charge for any charitable or not-for-profit event or publication (see here for more information on permissions).

For good length, 'reassuring' Christmas poems (2-5 minutes, and not requiring great acting skills) try Joseph and the shepherds, Poem for Christmas Eve or the more recent Gabriel's revelation

More edgy and unsettling are Baby crying and the longer and (if well-read) spine-tingling Herod's last request.

What kind of Messiah? is a tongue -in-cheek reflection on what we really want to be saved from, and the most recent The (good)will of the people a Br*xit-inspired re-reading of the angels' appearance to the shepherds. Skin starts at Christmas and imagines Christ's life from some of the senses of his human body. The last poem in the Magi sequence, The epiphany, can also be used effectively on its own as a longer reading. In The magi at the empty manger we take on the roles both of the bringers and the users of the three gifts.

More jokey pieces for one or more performers acting out a particular role are Light of the world, the mock bulletin News just in and A child is born, which works particularly well if you are able to use Powerpoint or similar slides to show the spoof questionnaire. 

Incarnate is a serious piece, not over long but with the broadest scope of any, a two-part telling of the story within universal history, usable as a single poem or split into a prologue and epilogue to an event.

As well as the shorter poems listed, any of The last straw can be used on their own - The word, The nativity and The magi probably best - as might the shorter poems from A Christmas commentary.

Finally there are four sequences which were created as narrative frameworks for a whole service or concert when mixed with other elements:

The last straw comprises eight short poems acting as introductions to some of the usual carol service bible readings.

The six pieces of A Christmas commentary follow and provide a perspective on specific bible readings, and the four Prayers of hope are prayers used in the same way.

The four longer poems of Magi provide a contemporary interpretation of the story which can be shared among any number of voices.

If you choose to use any of these in your events, or have other comments about them which you think may be helpful to me or others, please let me know.

longer readings

Joseph and the shepherds

    "Midnight in Bethlehem, Zero AD. One or two people in difficulty..." (performance time 3:30)   

Poem for Christmas Eve 

    A love story for a broken world (performance time 3:15)   

What kind of Messiah? from A Christmas commentary

   So what do we really want from a Saviour? (performance time 1:30)  

Gabriel's revelation   

    Improbable message from a confused archangel  (performance time 4:30)    

Baby crying 

    "The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes" Yeah, as if... (performance time 2:30)

The (good)will of the people *New in 2019*

   A shepherd answers back (performance time 2:00)  

The magi at the empty manger (for three voices) 

            What will we do with the gifts now? (performance time 2:00)

Herod's last request 

    Paranoid Jewish tyrant king gatecrashes suburban Christmas dinner (performance time 6:30)


    Life on the inside for a God clothed in skin (performance time 4:30)

Light of the world (with version for 2 voices here)

    Sound and lighting technicians mark up the script for "The Nativity" (performance time 3:15)

News just in (for 1 or 2 voices)

    Seasonal news bulletin (performance time 2:30)

A child is born (with version for 5 voices here)

    A multiple-choice, politically-correct prophecy (performance time 3:40)

The epiphany from Magi

    "He just lay there, needing to be loved" (performance time 3:40)


    Alpha to Omega (performance time 2:30)

shorter readings

The journey of the magi (cont.)

    The wise men overshoot the Bethlehem exit and turn up in 21st century London  

Come, Immanuel 

    "Come and live rough as we do: come and die."  

The sceptical shepherd  

            Conspiracy theories on the hills above Bethlehem

Notes for a biography

    Synopsis of Jesus' badly misjudged life
Nappy Christmas

    Just a joke...

Any poem from The last straw

Any short poem from A Christmas commentary


four narrative sequences 

The last straw 

     The fall 

     The promise

     The word 

     The annunciation 

     The nativity 

     The shepherds   

     The magi  

     The flight into Egypt

A Christmas commentary


     What kind of Messiah?


     Modus operandi

     The fourth king's gift



     The seekers

     The journey  

     The gifts   

     The epiphany

Prayers of hope