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Living On The Royalties

The Christmas gift that lasts forever

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore students’ understanding of the central place of Jesus' birth in Christian belief (SEAL theme: Empathy).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and three readers.
  • Find an image of the poster for the film About a Boy and have the means to display it during the assembly.
  • Choose your favourite piece of Christmas music and have the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


Leader What's your favourite Christmas song?

Reader 1 I like the old songs, like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’. They bring the whole family, the different generations, together.

Reader 2 I prefer the carols that everyone can join in with – ‘Silent night’, ‘O come, all ye faithful’ or ‘While shepherds watched their flocks‘. There's nothing like a candlelit carol service around the Christmas crib, although there are those who prefer the carols sung down at the local pub.

Reader 3 Give me a pop song every time. ‘Merry Christmas everybody’, ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’, ‘Rocking around the Christmas tree’ – those are the songs that really create the Christmas spirit in our house.

Leader There's something about Christmas songs that lasts. They somehow have a value that goes on and on from year to year. Maybe it's because we don't hear them from January to November, they sound fresh each time.

Display image of film poster.

You've probably seen this film one Christmas – About a Boy. Since its release in 2002, it's become a perennial on the TV schedules around this time of year.

The plot revolves around a character played by Hugh Grant who has no need to ever get a job. His income comes from royalties earned by a Christmas song composed by his father, who has died. For those of you who don't know what ‘royalties’ are, every time his father's song is played on the radio, on TV, downloaded, in an advert or in a shop, an amount of money goes into Hugh Grant's character's bank account. That amount of money is called a royalty and is paid for the use of the song. In real life, exactly the same happens with many of the songs we hear.

Reader 1 Every time ‘Happy Christmas (war is over)’ is played, the estate of John Lennon receives payment, even though John Lennon is dead.

Reader 2 Every time ‘Merry Christmas everybody’ is played, Noddy Holder gets a little bit richer.

Reader 3 ‘Fairytale of New York’ earns Jem Finer and Shane MacGowan a fortune each year.

Leader One positive side of all this is that, every time ‘Do they know it's Christmas?’ is played, money goes to the Band Aid charity, where it's used to combat poverty throughout the world. That's how royalties work. One song, written one Christmas, earns money year after year after year.

Christmas is a celebration of one event – the birth of Jesus in the town of Bethlehem, which is in what is now Palestine, but was then a distant outpost of the Roman Empire. Yet, Christians believe this one event had an effect that continues from year to year to year. Like the royalties on those songs, Christians believe that God's gift to humanity of a baby who was his son keeps giving and giving and giving.

Time for reflection

Leader How does Jesus affect the world we live in now?

Reader 1 Christians believe that Christmas is about God stepping into the world of you and me, taking on a human body and sharing the experiences of our lives. He knows what it's like to laugh, to cry, to be frustrated, to enjoy eating and drinking. So, talking and listening to this God is like talking and listening to a close friend rather than some remote being.

Reader 2 Christians believe Christmas isn’t merely about remembering something that happened in the past. It’s about bringing into the present everything that Jesus stood for in his life, his stories, his guidance and his example. What he said about money is relevant today. What he said about relationships is relevant today. What he said about forgiveness is relevant today.

Reader 3 Christians believe the world actually changed because of that first Christmas. The birth of Jesus led to a life and eventually a death and resurrection 33 years later.

Leader Christians believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us a totally new perspective on life and death, right and wrong, guilt and justice. Just like a song earning royalties year by year, the meaning of Christmas can feed into our lives day by day, week by week and year by year, if we choose to follow Jesus. It's the gift that goes on giving.

I don’t know what your favourite piece of Christmas music is, but the one I will play at the end of this assembly is mine.

Dear Lord,
Thank you that Christmas comes every single year, with its excitement, enjoyment and opportunities to share.
Remind us that Jesus is at the heart of the festival.
May we remember the purpose of his birth and follow his ways day by day in our lives.


Chosen favourite piece of Christmas music

Publication date: December 2014   (Vol.16 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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