Add Some Sparkle To Your Christmas Reading

01/12/2016 16:00

Being asked to read at a Carol Service is a great honour, but for many it can fill us with dread! What tone should you take? How fast should you go? And how can you make a well-known passage sound new and relevant today? Robin Kermode, Europe's leading communication coach, explains how!

One of the biggest challenges with reading a well-known Christmas Bible passage, like The Shepherds go to the Manger, is that most of the congregation will have heard it every year since they were children. It's very easy for them to hear the words but not really listen.

One of the easiest ways to help them listen is for the reader to slow down. So I recommend typing out your reading in a large font (size 14 or above depending on your age!) and make all the lines much shorter in length. This will also stop you from stumbling or losing your place.

As an example, here are the first few lines of this reading, as laid out in the Bible:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

It would be very hard to read aloud from this layout - every time you looked up you'd lose your place! So let's break up the sentences into shorter line lengths and also add in paragraphs:

And there were in the same country
shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the Angel of the Lord
came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.

This is much easier to read.

Next, we must choose the most important words to emphasise. Let's highlight these important words. As you speak, pause after each bold word, to allow the congregation to hear the majesty and wonder of the story.

I've marked up the whole passage here. Try sight-reading this aloud:

And there were in the same country
shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the Angel of the Lord
came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.

And the Angel said unto them,
"Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day,
in the City of David,
a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger."
And it came to pass,
as the angels were gone away from them
into Heaven,
the shepherds said one to another,

"Let us now go
even unto Bethlehem,
and see this thing
which is come to pass,
which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste,
and found Mary, and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger.

Did you find it easier to read? Did you find yourself going slower? Did you stumble at all? Did you actually enjoy reading it?!

So, here are my Top Ten Tips for reading at a Carol Service:

1. Type your reading out with shorter lines and add in paragraphs.

2. Use colours to help you emphasise the most important words.

3. Use a minimum of size 14 font.

4. Practise reading it aloud at least five times before the service.

5. Use the same sheet that you will use on the day, so you get used to the layout of the sentences.

6. On the day, walk up to the front and then wait two or three seconds before you start to read. This will help you compose yourself.

7. If there is a microphone, you don't have to shout. Try using your own, natural voice, as if telling the story to one person.

8. Speak slowly and leave a pause after every highlighted word. An old building, like a church, might have a slight echo so it's best to speak in shorter sentences and let the sound fall off before starting the next one.

9. Look up at the end of each paragraph to connect with your audience.

10. At the end, wait a couple of seconds to allow the congregation to soak up the majesty of your reading.

And if there are lots of candles it will only add to the magic!

I wish you the very best of luck and I hope you enjoy reading one of the traditional lessons at your Carol Service this year.

Robin Kermode is a popular keynote speaker and one of Europe's leading communication coaches. He is the founder of Zone2, a professional training and coaching consultancy: www.zone2.co.uk. He is the author of Speak So Your Audience Will Listen - a practical guide for anyone who has to speak to another human being: http://amzn.to/IUv1RD

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