Poetry for Lessons and Carols


Several years ago, Bromleigh McCleneghan offered this possibility of poetry that might be included in our telling of the Christmas story. It’s a great list with excellent reflection as to why one would include poetry that you should totally read on Fidelia’s Sisters.

In telling this story — year after year — I have found that it to be vitally important to find new ways to proclaim the incarnation. It can quickly become a sweet story with some impossible truths that no one wants to tackle. I don’t want that to happen. Because I believe in a stillspeaking God — a God who is still coming into the broken places of this world, a God who is still living in flesh, a God who is still using our words and our questions toward the possibility of hope. And though that stillspeaking hope is there in Matthew and Luke and John, our ears only hear the familiarity of the story rather than the radical justice.

Every year, I look for new poetry to add to the telling of this radical justice — but I can’t help but return to some of my favorites. I repeat them. Because I love them. The words still startle and delight me. I want to hear them. I need to hear them and be reminded that this is what the incarnation is all about. But, as God is stillspeaking, I am always looking for some new poems. I have found that there is not a tremendous resource on the Google if you go looking for Lessons and Carols with poetry.

Bromleigh’s article pops up first — as it should. But, we need more poetry.

Hear me poets!?! We need you.

Slowly but surely, I add more to my collection of good poems. Some of my favorites will always include (and this list expands every year as my love of poetry grows and grows):

BC:AD by U.A. Fanthorpe
Those Who Saw the Star by Julia Esquivel
First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle
The Risk of Birth by Madeleine L’Engle
Christmas Comes by Ann Weems
To Listen, To Look by Ann Weems
All Who Seek You by Rainier Maria Rilke
Che Jesus by Anonymous
Salutation and Descent by Luci Shaw 
Everything is Waiting for You by David Whyte
The Nativity by Mary Karr
Christmas Comes by Maren Tirabassi 
Hush by Lucinda Hynett
Song for the Poor at Christmas by Christine Rodgers
Beginnings by Edwina Gateley
Silent Night by Bonnie Thurston
Remembering That It Happened Once by Wendell Berry
Into the Darkest Hour by Madeline L'Engle

Poems for the Incarnation
On the Mystery of Incarnation by Denise Levertov
Made Flesh by Luci Shaw

Poems for the Annunciation
The Other Annunciation by Amy Frykolm
Annunciation to Mary by Rainier Maria Rilke
Annunciation by Katherine Coles

There was one year that I decided that there should be a Lessons and Carols experience specifically designed for children. I tweaked it a bit as I served in this congregation where there was greater attendance at the earlier service than the later. The adults didn’t want to miss the singing of Silent Night in a dimmed sanctuary and who could blame them? But the above poems just would not work so I had to find some poems with simpler language.

Wishing by Agnes Mary
Let Us Keep Christmas Beautiful by Garnett Ann Schultz

What words of poetry help you to believe in the radical hope of Christmas? Do you have favorites you return to every year or even some you share with the littlest in your family?

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