In the late 1920s black American preachers found a market for short recorded sermons as a three-minute oration fit nicely on a 78-rpm disc. Here is a sermon recorded in Atlanta, 3 November 1926; the Reverend J.M. Gates waxes eloquent on the possibility of imminent death and the need for repentance. Using Santa as a metaphor for things hoped for, he warns that the future might bring something much nastier than a Christmas present. In later years Gates would also gives his listeners “Will the Coffin Be Your Santa Claus” and “Will Death Be Your Santa Claus.” Attend to his message:
While we think on the 25th of December, we are expecting a great day. But on that day it is said that Jesus was born, but we celebrate Christmas wrong. From the way I look at this matter, shooting fireworks, cursing, and dancing. Raising all other kinds of sand.
Ah, but death may be your Santa Claus. Those of you who are speaking to the little folks and telling them that Santa Claus coming to see ’em, and the little boys telling mother and father, “Tell old Santa to bring me a little pistol,” that same little gun may be death in that boy’s home. Death may be his Santa Claus. That little old girl is saying to mother and to father, “Tell old Santa Claus to bring me a little deck of cards that I may play five-up in the park.” While the child play, death may be her Santa Claus.
Those of you that has prepared to take your automobiles and now fixing up the old tires, an’ getting your spares ready and overhauling your automobile, death may be your Santa Claus.
You is decorating your room and getting ready for all night dance, death may be your Santa Claus. Death is on your track and gonna overtake you after a while. Death may be your Santa Claus. Oh man, oh woman, oh boy, oh girl, if were you, I would be worrying this morning and would search deep down in my heart. For God I live and for God I’ll die. If I were you, I’d turn around this morning. Death may be your Santa Claus. Death been on your track ever since you were born, ever since you been in the world. Death winked at your mother three times before you was born into this sin sinnin’ world. Death is gonna bring you down after while, after while; Death may be your Santa Claus.