An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the true meaning of Christmas.
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and three readers.
- Have available a candle to be lit at the end of the assembly.
You will also need some traditional Christmas music to be played at the beginning and end of the assembly, such as ‘In the bleak midwinter’ or ‘While shepherds watched their flocks’.
Have available the poems ‘Lucy’s carol’ and ‘The innkeeper’s wife’, which are found in A Pocket Book of Spiritual Poems collected by Rumer Godden (Hodder & Stoughton, 1996).
- ‘Lucy’s carol’ is also available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9256gfq
- ‘The innkeeper’s wife’ is also available at: https://tinyurl.com/yazlmbzb
Leader: This year, we thought we’d celebrate the Christmas story in a different way. We thought we’d look more closely at the story of the birth of Jesus by using a poem called ‘Lucy’s carol’.
Reader 1: Lucy was only five years old when she came up with this poem. You’ll need to listen carefully to what she says, so we will read it slowly.
When the baby borned
Joseph said to Mary,
‘What am I going to do about
This little-born Jesus Baby Christ?
I never knew it was going to be like this,
with all these angels and kings
and shepherds and stars and things.
It’s got me worried I can tell you,
on Christmas day in the morning.’
Mary said to Joseph,
‘Not to worry, my darling.
Dear old darling Joseph,
everything’s going to be all right,
because the angel told me not to fear.
So just hold up the lamp
so I can see the dear sweet little face
of my darling little-born Jesus Baby Christ.’
Joseph said to Mary,
‘Behold the handyman of the Lord!’
Happy Christmas, Happy Christmas!
Christ is born today.
Leader: In all the stories of the birth of Jesus that I ever heard, everything was beautiful and gentle, with angels and things. The crib scenes all look so peaceful and calm. But Lucy seems to think that Joseph might have been more than a bit worried.
Reader 1: I’ve often wondered what it must have been like to have been born in a stable - all that scratchy hay and the smell! I mean, cows can be seriously smelly and big and clumsy. And then there are the oxen and the sheep!
Reader 2: Listen to part of a poem called ‘The innkeeper’s wife’ by Clive Sansom.
. . . It was a night in winter.
Our house was full, tight-packed as salted herrings –
So full, they said, we had to hold our breaths
To close the door and shut the night-air out!
And then two travellers came. They stood outside
Across the threshold, half in the ring of light
And half beyond it. I would have let them in
Despite the crowding – the woman was past her time –
But I’d no mind to argue with my husband,
The flagon in my hand and half the inn
Still clamouring for wine. But when trade slackened,
And all our guests had sung themselves to bed
Or told the floor their troubles, I came out here
Where he had lodged them. The man was standing
As you are now, his hand smoothing that board –
He was a carpenter, I heard them say.
She rested on the straw, and on her arm
A child was lying.
Reader 3: I think the true meaning of the story is about a family who had to leave home to go to Bethlehem, just to be registered for a vote. It must have been tiring and dangerous for a heavily pregnant woman to go on such a long journey. There were no planes or decent roads. Then, when they got there, they were told that there was no room for them to stay. They must have been very worried.
Leader: Christians believe that the story is about Jesus, God’s son. They believe that he wasn’t born in great splendour. He was more like a refugee looking for somewhere to take him in. He and his family knew hardship and worry. It wasn’t all plain sailing.
Reader 1: That’s a good point. There are so many questions. What about those shepherds and kings who came to see Jesus? Where do they fit in? Who was looking after the sheep when the shepherds came to see Jesus? Mary was only young, probably 15 or so. She probably didn’t even speak the same language as those kings and wouldn’t have understood anything they said.
Reader 2: In the New Testament, the stories of Jesus’ birth tell Christians how important that birth was, and still is for them today. In Luke’s Gospel, we hear of the shepherds coming - these poor, working people being the first to see God’s son - and Mary, his mother, has a very important part to play in the story.
Reader 3: In Matthew’s Gospel, the Magi, or kings (who were really readers of stars - we get the word ‘magician’ from the word ‘Magi’), arrive to see the baby. They bring three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Time for reflection
Leader: We are going to light this candle because Christians call Jesus the ‘light of the world’. They believe that when Jesus was born, he brought light into a dark world and they remember his birth at Christmastime.
Light the candle.
Reader 1: Let’s sit quietly for a few moments and think about what we can do this Christmastime to bring some light and joy into someone else’s life. It could be someone close to us or, perhaps, someone who feels rejected, lonely, anxious or unhappy.
Thank you for Christmas.
Thank you for the beauty of lights and decorations.
Please help us to be lights in the world.
Please help us to consider other people and bring hope and light to their lives.