Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent Spoken Word Poetry Program

A word of explanation: this is a Christmas program I've been tinkering with for a while, using spoken word poetry instead of the usual readings/lines. It can either be performed by a few people in the program, as noted, or narrated as events are silently carried out onstage by actors. The poems, my song choices, and the notes for the program are all here. Just thought I'd post it in case anyone was interested in using it for something. Please let me know if you do.


SCENE 1 [SIMEON is kneeling, as in prayer, head bowed. A few anonymous robed people pass behind him.]

SIMEON: Creation is aching
Creation is groaning
A woman is moaning in childbirth
The droning of this earth
Joins with her
Together to cry for atoning 

Oh Father, how far off you feel
There's men drawing steel
Women longing to heal
Yet they cry to the heavens
Where only cold stars You reveal?

[SIMEON lifts his face and looks toward the sky, arms outstretched.]

Have we grown so distant, my King?
You walked with our parents through gardens in spring
They hid from You, yes, still You saw everything
We've brought You our bulls for Your burnt offerings
We've made our oblations, we've tuned up our strings
Yet do You give ear when we pray?
Do you hear when we sing?
Are we destined to pay and to pay
For the day Adam didn't obey?
Are You there listening?
Or am I just talking to me? 

We are in a world deceased.
A world diseased. A world torn piece from piece.
Where people name fellow people beast.
Where people suffer. People cease.
Where, King above, is Your reign of peace?
Why don't you come to this world morose?
Come put an end to the devil's boast
With fire and light and an angel host?
This is my plea.
Or really, if I'm honest most
Days it should be
But isn't
I've given up the ghost here living
Under Roman captivity
An old man waiting for Messiahs who will never be

Could it ever be?


Congregational Song: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Scene 2 [Joseph stands stage left, Mary stage right lies asleep against the manger where the baby lays.]

JOSEPH: When they draw pictures of my bride,
How will they show her - benign, beatified?
Will they show the dirt from a tired ride?
Show me shaking at her side
As the child arrived?
Will her dress be spotless white?
Pastel dyed?
Or the crimson that comes with what lay inside?

God become flesh, become one of us.
God become sunburnt, with hair that's mussed.
God who would one day be broken, trussed
Up on a cross -
God somehow made one of us?
In this we trust
But, from another angle, feel disgust.

[An infant cries. Joseph walks over and softly picks up the child.]

It is a wonder and scandal indeed
A scandal that heaven descends to bleed
That Adam's potter and Adam's seed
Would come to be
One
Sucking His thumb
Doing what every infant's done
God and man, curse undone -
In scandal and wonder we come

[Joseph now holding the child, looking down in awe]

O crown Him, a King crowning 
A King from a womb, drowning 
In the stuff of life, a feeble heartbeat pounding. 

(ALTERNATE: O crown Him, a King crying
A King in a feed trough lying
Robed in wrinkled skin, a King already dying.)

O crown Him -
A God clutching at His umbilical cord
Eternal, exalted, umbilicalled Lord
Creation's first word, heaven poured
Onto a human's tongue
Within a human's skin
Into a human's brain
For every human's sin
A mother's pain
And afterbirth
That humans might be born again

 [Joseph goes back to rejoin Mary at the manger]

Special Music: Labor of Love (AP Version)

Scene 3 [Shepherds, center stage; Mary and Joseph in shadows stage right, unmoving]
SHEPHERD: We who huddle in hovels and hobble to wells
Who wear our sheeps' skin and share our sheeps' smell
We scrape for our bread as we wander the dells -
Come hear, all you haughty, the story we tell:

The night was pure, with ice-spiked wind
Our tents were tatters battered thin
When sheep and shivers quit their din
And starry skies were split.        [An angel appears, stage left]
He stood like steel and burnished gold
A warrior burning, visage cold
We swore our deaths, both young and old
Had come in holy writ.

He met our eyes, his pinprick flames.
“In David's city,” he proclaimed,
“Is the anointed Savior laid
In birth among the beasts.”          [The choir of angels emerges, left]
Then angel armies over fields
Were shaking swords and banging shields
And yelling, “Glory! Glory yield
Unto the prince of peace.”

[The angels disappear; shepherds make their way over to
And so we hurried to the home - manger, kneel nearby]

It was no palace, bower, throne -
A humble hut, like those we own
An oaken door that creaks
They wore no broach nor cloak nor pearls -
A calloused man, a shaking girl,
A toothless infant, swaddled, curled
Up in a tired sleep.

I can see by your brow and the curl of your lip
That this seems an improbable deliverance
But we've seen God's anointed, our sovereign exists
So come offer your laud, your obeisance, your gifts
Because this is it

Congregational Song: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

Scene 4 [Wise men, seemingly taking a breather from their journey, center-left stage. Manger scene, now including shepherds, still stage right.]

MAGUS: A cold coming we had of it, riding
Ever towards the setting sun.
It was a new star, white and shining
That had bid us come.
Bid us who peered into mysteries
Bid us who, in our vanity,
Thought we could untangle the knots of our humanity.
It bid us come and wonder, come and see.

[Wise men slowly making their way to manger]

“A King is born,” it said,
The sort of King to which the astral bodies sing
The sort of King to whom we ought our tribute bring
A King who's born like endless winter's spring.
The kind of king we're beggared to believe -
In distant lands, with distant gods
Who lie unheeding of our pleas,
We worship lords with strength of law
Or strength to leave their foes deceased.
But who is this the heavens scream?
Some backhills, battered refugees,
Disgraced and left with meager means?
What kind of Lord is born to these?
What kind of Lord indeed?

A Lord somehow for me? 

[Wise men kneel by manger]

A Lord sucking cold air into His chest?
A Lord left clutching for a mother's breast?
A man of sorrows, God no less,
Acquainted with grief, acquainted with death?
To what some call wise men, it seems foolishness -
A foolishness most blessed.

[Wise men offer gifts and prostrate themselves]

So give your gold for the pauper's crown
Frankincense to the one bent down
Myrrh to bathe His mortal frame
Wonder, for they say His name
Is God with us
A God men touch
A God who knows our pain
Immanuel? Insane.
But let it be, all the same.

Congregational Song: O Holy Night

Scene 5 [Manger scene is now stage center, with wise men and shepherds kneeling around. An angel stands behind them, arms outstretched.]

ANGEL: [Boasting] If I could have your attention please
The heavens declare our new-born king
Born of a virgin
Firstborn of the dead
Born an incursion
A heavenly spearhead
Born to make war on the forces of darkness
To topple the tyrants, to end all injustice,
To share our humanity – beautiful, frail
To bear our rebellion, be pierced by our nails
Live Israel's story, exile, restoration
Break down the walls between peoples and nations
Give to us His righteousness and His inheritance
God as our brother, and God our true parent
Death broken, sin shattered, now no condemnation
Hell's gates are torn open -
That's my proclamation.

The King has come!
See, saints and scoffers
See his glory – glory offer
Fall on your faces
Leave your high places
Lowly he lies here, the Lord of the Ages
God descended, man exalted
God with muscles, man found faultless
God made sin and man washed spotless
God's wrath spent and man's curse halted

This is the child, this is the movement
Where heaven and earth meet

This is the child, this is the moment
Come, and see, and weep

Come and see your King

Congregational Song: Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

Scene 6 [Back to Simeon, kneeling]
SIMEON: Creation is aching
Creation is groaning
A woman is moaning in childbirth
The droning of this earth
Joins with her
Together to cry for atoning 

We are in a world deceased.
A world diseased. A world torn piece from piece.
Where people name fellow people beast.
Where people suffer. People cease.
Where, King above, is Your reign of peace?
Why don't you come with your heavenly host?
Come put an end to the devil's boast
With fire and light and a single angel riposte?
This is my plea.
Or really, if I'm honest most
Days it should be
But isn't
I've given up the ghost here livin'
Under Roman captivity
An old man waiting for Messiahs who will never be 

[Simeon lifts his head as Mary & Joseph enter]

Could it be?
This voice in me that's whispering -
Might I believe what it is telling me?
This couple in the temple's wing
In dusty garments – this cannot be
This cannot be the King     [Simeon leaps up, takes the child]
Holy, High Infinity
His eyes unfocused and gray
His palms could snap in my hands
His bones and guts and brains
Joined with the great I AM
You, distant daunting God
You would become a man?
I cannot understand
And yet... 

A woman is laughing
A child is smiling
While you are defiled wearing our flesh
Made subject to our death
Joined with us
To become what you're reconciling 

Now Your servant may depart in peace

[Pause, then to heaven]

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

[To MARY]: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

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