Beneath the catchy or reflective melodies often heard during holiday galas are provocative, inspiring poems whose depth is often missed, even by the most passionate Christ-follower.
We explored those poems, revisited the Scriptures that inspired them and discovered the depth of their lyrical message: What Jesus endured to save humans — who by nature rebel (or “sin”) against God — from eternal separation from God (eternal death, or “hell”).
As a result, we adapted the lyrics of 61 Christmas and Easter songs, converted them to dialogue, did the same related Scriptures and created two reader's theater presentations, "Carol Story" and "Carol Story: The Easter Edition." The scripts were written independently, a decade apart. There is Each "Story" is a powerful gospel reflection on its holiday season, and can be presented to supplement a planned program.
After a Christmas-season tour of the 10-minute Carol Story," conversations with our guest pianist, clergy and audience members, sparked conversations about a "sequel" for Easter with the same concept, and only a few of the same songs. There are four Christmas songs used in both. We also added scriptures as transitional dialogue, because of the nature of the Resurrection narrative.
A community organization requested our services for a special Holy Week program, and so to complete the allotted time, the one acts were connected as a 55-minute outreach that yielded impact we had not anticipated.
Hearing back from audiences has been educational. "I did not know there were so many hymns about the life of Christ," a viewer told us. We understood the awkwardness in her phrase -- that though we sing hymns of praise and worship, sometimes the story of Jesus is missed. By jove, she got it!
For cast, embodying the characters relying solely on the words and without extraneous set pieces has intensified our relation to the Scriptures and God's creativity. Moreover, responding to spontaneous audience responses during performance make discoveries unavailable in rehearsal, thus creating enthusiasm for reviewing the meaning of passages we may have misunderstood in first performance.
We also discovered that although these are "Christmas" and "Easter" songs, neither piece is restricted to those holiday seasons, for their throughline is the life of Christ -- a message that transcends seasonal containment. An element we found help with the community performance is this: recognizing that not all in the audience believed the story of Christ, we felt it helpful to create program notes to put some phrases in context. Those notes became the basis for this missive.
Jesus says only belief in Him and following His instructions saves those who want to be with God from eternal death and leads them to eternal life. Jesus says that eternal life occurs only when a person’s spirit is reborn from rebellion against God, to embracing Him as ruler and guide of human life as outlined by Christ.
Those who wrote the lyrics we present understood these principles. Some sitting among us tonight do as well. Whether you choose to believe is an individual choice which we respect. However, we admit we do have an agenda, so to speak, with this presentation. Simply, whatever you think about Jesus now, that you leave with a greater understanding of the life of Christ, so that when you hear these songs in a mall or on radio you’ll hear the voice of God speaking to you more deeply. Believe it, or not.