Maeve Visser Knoth: Christmas Stories for Ministers

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Christmas Stories for Ministers

Okay, that is a funny title. Ministers already have a Christmas story, don't they? They have the big one, the Christmas Story that gives us Christmas. Yes, that is true. But now and again I get asked for suggestions of additional stories, stories that might work in a church or a Sunday School to bring help children, and adults in a congregation think about Christmas in a new way.

So, now well into January, I would like to suggest some stories that might work next year. These are great family read-alouds and all suitable for a wide age range.

Cynthia Rylant's Children of Christmas is a lovely collection of six short stories that work well read aloud. Rylant wears her heart on her sleeve in all her writing. You know just where she stands and where her emotions lie. These stories are gentle and sensitive without becoming maudlin.

Two poetry books stand out for me. The Beasts of Bethlehem by X. J. Kennedy is a collection of poems in which the author imagines what nineteen animals might have said if they really could speak on the night Jesus was born.

At Christmastime by Valerie Worth has poems about all different aspects of the season- the tree lot, wreaths, the creche, the Wise Men, and Santa Claus. The poems are quite simple but very wise.

A Certain Small Shepard by Rebecca Caudill, is a novella (maybe really a short story) published as a book with illustrations by William Pene du Bois. Jamie, a boy who has been mute since birth, wishes that he could sing in the annual Christmas pageant. This is a miracle story in its own right.

I am generally much more tolerant of sentimentality in Christmas stories than I am any other time of the year. Still, I want the emotions to ring true and I want the story to be more than just sentiment. When it comes to Christmas stories, Katherine Paterson is the writer for me. Paterson has published two collections of Christmas stories for families. Both collections are made up of stories she wrote to be read at the church where her husband was minister. Of course this makes them eminently suitable for ministers and Sunday School teachers looking for new ways to talk about miracles, love, sacrifice and humanity. Angels and Other Strangers: Family Christmas Stories was first published in 1979 and A Midnight Clear: Stories for the Christmas Season was published in 1995. Both are full of stories that will leave adults and children thinking a bit more deeply about the Christmas season.

Tuck this list away for most of the year, but when you need something new to read aloud come December, try one of these titles.


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