Just recently on the television, I came across a documentary programme that was all about what a poll of people had decided was the best ever Christmas television advert. The criteria seemed to focus on what was the most memorable, what had helped to sell the notion of Christmas (from a commercial viewpoint), and makes people think of product, brand or store. Of course, we understand that the primary purpose of any advertising campaign is to put across a message that sticks in the mind and influences our choices.
The programme spent quite a lot of time focusing on the adverts that are short, self-contained stories in their own right. A lonely man on the moon who connects with a young girl via a telescope. The adventures of lost toys trying to find their way home. A convoy of trucks carrying fizzy drinks. A flying snowman or a singing carrot. All of these are seen as iconic images of what Christmas looks like to the general public, and of course the hope is that it generates lots of additional financial income for the advertiser.
Just out of interest, what would your favourite be?
But as I was watching the programme it became apparent that very little, if any, of the nativity story played a part in helping to raise the profile of Christmas. The nearest that any storyline got to involving Jesus, was a passing mention of the costumes needed for some small children for a school nativity play.
So, I began to think about how I might go about deciding on a theme for an advert to publicise Christmas and what message I might want to get across? Would just the simple retelling of the nativity story be enough to spark the interest of those who don’t go near a church either ever, or only for rare special occasions in their life?
I thought that perhaps the answer might lie in any mutual ground between the faith version of Christmas and those who claim to have very little or no faith. A good place to start is with the vast array of designs that we find on Christmas cards in the shops. Apart from the stable scenes, it would appear that the words of popular Christmas carols are a common theme. ‘Silent Night’, ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’, and ‘While Shepherds Watched their Flocks’ are amongst the titles most often seen. All of these carols are well known and remembered from school days by many. They also are heard on the radio and in shops at this time of year.
Another popular approach that seems to appear on many Christmas cards are the themes of the four Sunday’s of Advent. Hope, Peace, Joy and Love seem to give a sense of Christmas and are suited to the sentiments being portrayed for the season on the cards.
It is true that there are a considerable number of Christmas cards with very nice snowy landscapes, robins, Christmas trees and presents, plus any number of variations of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, or whatever other name he goes by. However, in most of these we can find a link to the nativity story and/or the values of our Christian faith.
So with these number of common areas, we can think again which way would be the most effective in advertising Christmas. What would you favour as the focus of the Christmas message?
For me, I think we should concentrate our efforts on how this season of Christmas gives us Hope, that leads to Peace, Joy and Love. This is especially important this year with all of the trials and hard times that everybody has endured in one way or another. With our focus leading to the Love of Christ, it can encompass many of the things that the pollsters would say make Christmas special.
Family times, gifts for loved ones, celebratory meals, looking out for others and making sure that those less fortunate than ourselves can be the shown and experience the true Love of Christ in practice, are all an indication that Christ truly is at the centre of not only the name, but the essence of this season. Even if people don’t recognise that this is the Love of Christ in action, they can still experience that Love, which we can then hope that they also will share something of it – if nothing else it will only increase the Hope, Peace and Joy that is found through an encounter with the Love of Christ.
Christmas then, can be seen in its many guises, as Christ taking His place in all aspects of modern life. True Love in action.
I too, can play me part by ensuring that in everything I do over the Christmas season I have Christ at the centre of my actions. What better advert could we ask for?
How would you like to see Christmas advertised?
Deacon Ian Black