Creating with Carols

It's easy to allow the joy and light of Christmas pass us by when we're deep in the middle of the busyness of the season, isn't it? Especially when bombarded from all sides with worrying news and things going on in our lives. For writers it can be a season when writing gets too difficult: we have too much to do, too much pressing in from all sides, life is too much.

But for many Christian writers it's a time of great inspiration, too, when we allow ourselves to plunge deep into the narrative of the first Christmas and find there a springboard for our own reflections. Some of the most powerful works of fiction and poetry are written around Christmas or featuring the theme of Christmas - think The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, A Christmas Carol, T'was the Night Before Christmas, Little Women, Love Came Down at Christmas. I've read some amazing Christmas offerings from members of ACW, not least in the Christmas anthology published a couple of years back.

I think that Christmas can be such a great inspiration because it speaks into the centre of our stories. It's a grand and sweeping narrative in itself, and it's sparked thousands of songs and carols as well as poems and stories. I've loved reading some of your poetry this year, such as Emily Owen's daily haiku on Twitter.

Even if you're not feeling inspired to create something completely new, though, I think that Christmas carols can spark creativity. I've seen a few poems shaped around Christmas carols (and had a go myself - like the one below.) There is something about the words of carols that can draw us out of our everyday lives, out of the mess and the noise and the exhaustion. Think about the peace of Silent Night and the magic of See Amid the Winter's Snow, the excitement of the story of O Little Town of Bethlehem and the joy and triumph of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Lines from all the carols can speak to our souls, ringing with echoes of a bigger song that chimes through history. That's why we keep singing them each year, why they keep their sparkle; they remind us of hope through some of the darkest days.

So... why not have a go at using your own creativity with carols? If someone asks you to write a carol, you might be rather overwhelmed and see it as impossible, but carols contain such a breadth of source material. How about chopping up a few carols and putting them together, inserting your own phrases, shaping them into something new? How about using lines from a carol within a story, or using a carol to spark a new story? How about writing a series of Haiku based around some carols?

Of course, carols have long been sources of word play in so many ways. From the shepherds washing their socks through to the King on a scooter peeping his hooter (oo-er!) through to a plethora of '12 days of Christmas' parodies we have a long tradition of carol humour. One of my earliest memories is singing 'Most highly flavoured gravy' in assembly at school. Perhaps that's your bag - perhaps it's time for something new?

I'd love to see some ACW carol creativity, so do join in on the comments! Even if you don't feel like creating with carols, do tell us what your favourite carol is and why.

And maybe, as you create, you will be reminded of the hope that prompted the first writers of these carols. Maybe you will find yourself filled anew with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and drenched in the love of the Christ-child. I pray for all of you this Christmas, that wherever you are with your writing, and wherever you are in your lives, that you will know that you are part of this song that spans history and reflects eternity. I pray that if you are weary and sad, you will find the words of carols comforting and sustaining. I pray you will all find the words of life you need to be reminded of, this Christmas in this funny old year.

To end, then, here's one of my 'carol plays' - from my book, published last year - and the video I made of the poem. Hope you enjoy it and that you're inspired to go and create for yourself - and share with us!


A hark the herald in a weary cave 
A midnight clear blinks through our fears 
And all ye faithful come and praise 
As a silent night is draped in light 

A bleak midwinter awakened to spring 
As shepherds hear angels from glory realms 
On Christmas night the whole world sings 
O come, O come, Immanuel 

O little town, your story resounds 
Through first nowells and merrily bells 
Through a manger away and a shining new day 
We salute the morn as the anthem swells 

O see amid our winter pain 
Amid our night where dread takes flight 
What child is this, who rests our shame 
Joy to the world in a brand-new name 

A hark the herald in our weary souls 
A midnight clear in our deepest fears 
A little town of hallowed ground 
And joy in the morning when you are here.

(A poem from Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and Poems of Hope in the Hurting by Liz Carter.

Liz Carter is an author, poet and editor from Shropshire. She loves to write about the difficult and painful times in life, and how we can find gold in the mess. Her books Catching Contentment and Treasure in Dark Places are available in online bookstores. You can find her at and she’s just signed a contract for her next book with The Good Book Company, coming 2023.

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