Debut as a Christian Public Speaker: Poem Reader, A.D.1967
James J. S. Johnson
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matthew 12:1-2)
Everyone must start somewhere. As a Christian public speaker my debut opportunity was being told to read a Christmas poem, for Damascus Elementary School (which I then attended as a 6th-grader), for our school’s Christmas program. (Since America was founded as a Christian nation, historically, it made sense that an American public school would have a Christmas program.)
To this day I own a little brown notebook that contains hand-copied and mimeographed songs from that program — including a mimeographed poem that I read to the audience that night in December — it was my first public speaking as a Christian (having trusted Christ as my personal Savior near the end of the previous month).
THE CHRISTMAS STORY
I will tell you a beautiful story,
One that is ever new –
Of our Savior’s birth in Bethlehem,
We all love the story, too.
The town with pilgrims was crowded
When Joseph and Mary appear,
The innkeeper cruelly told them,
“There is no room for you here.”
Nearby was a shelter for cattle –
A cave so dismal and old –
And there in a manger so humble,
The Christ-Child lay, we’re told.
Then arose that night in heaven,
A star so bright and clear,
It guided the steps of the wise men,
With their gifts both precious and dear.
There they knelt at the feet of Mary,
Humble and true and still,
To offer their tribute to Jesus,
Who bringeth us peace and good-will.
May this star send ever a tiding,
To all in this school-room here,
Of the message our Saviour has given –
Peace to all, love, and good cheer.
[Quoting Susie L. Fitz, “CHRISTMAS EXERCISE”, PRIMARY EDUCATION, 14(10):500 (December 1906).]
The above-quoted Christmas poem – a mimeographed copy of which, including some typos, I still have – I read, as carefully as I could, at Damascus Elementary School, from the stage of its multi-purpose auditorium (that also served as the lunchroom and indoor gymnasium), as part of the elementary school’s Christmas A.D.1967 program.
In God’s providence, this was my first experience as a Christian public speaker. Thankfully, since then, God has given me many more opportunities to speak publicly for Him.
Now begins a new year — by God’s powerful providence, I trust, this new year will include more opportunities to speak for Him. It has now been slightly more than 50 years that I have belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior.