I remember the past 50 years, planning for the Advent – Christmas season each year, thinking about the 5 weeks at the close of the year, and asking what shall I speak about this year. I would look over the past years and ask, what have I not covered recently that I could turn to? It may be why I am mostly bald: pulling my hair out, trying to think with creativity, while staying relevant to a congregation’s needs.

So I thought it might be useful to post some of the sermons that I have actually delivered over those years, to hopefully prime the pump, and to get the waters flowing, in those of us who get to lead congregations during this high season. The sermons can be found under the heading, Christmas. But a word of caution: I am not suggesting that you plagiarise mine or anyone else’s sermons. But …

Can I take you into the mind of one of the greatest writers of this century? T. S. Eliot. Eliot is the writers of that great poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and “Songs from the Rock”, and “The Wasteland.” Eliot began his writing of poetry as a jaded young man, but in the process became a profound Christian poet.

But though Eliot was a Christian, he was, by his own admission, also a thief and a robber! He was accused of pilfering, pinching, and plagiarizing from the poetry of others. Listen to his non-repentant words of self-defence. He writes

The Poet’s mind is in fact a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together.

In another place he notes the difference between good poets and bad poets. He writes, “One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take; and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn….”

One final word from Eliot: “A poet cannot help being influenced, therefore he should subject himself to as many influences as possible, in order to escape from any one influence. He may have original talent, but originality has also to be cultivated; it takes time to mature, and maturing consists largely of taking in and digesting various influences.”

Now back to preparing for Christmas. If we are to be good preachers we will need to beg, borrow and steal from every passing camel caravan. We will need to pirate and plunder every ship plying its trade across the seven seas. We will need to be jewel thieves taking every precious stone we can get our hands on. We will need to be pick pockets pilfering anything of value. We will need to be time travellers stealing the artifacts of the entirety of the world’s civilizations. As literary thieves we will steal a word from here, a phrase from there, a story from this book, a character from that story. You are welcome to “plunder this Egyptian” too. I am hoping that one or more of these sermons may ignite your imagination so that the imaginations of your people might be enlightened too.

So you have my permission to take what you like, and leave what you don’t.

And may we all have a great Christmas!

David Ashton