Christmas is coming

by Richard on October 20, 2009

Maggi Dawn has the distinction (I think) of having the first Christmas-related post in my feedreader this year. She reports the announcement of the Christmas advertising campaign from ChurchAds.net

Research done this year reveals that 85 per cent of people agree with the statement that “Christmas should be called Christmas because we are still a Christian country.” But research also shows that only 12 per cent of adults know the Christmas story in any detail – and the figure drops to just 7 per cent among 18-24 year olds.

So, if we really want to keep Christmas focused on Christ, we need to re-tell the story of his birth in ways which engage positively with the public’s interest.

Which is why, all over the country and across all denominations, churches are being urged to participate in a new advertising campaign. Designed to run for at least five years, it features the line: “Christmas starts with Christ” and re-tells the nativity story in a modern, secular context

Churches are being invited to join in the campaign by sponsoring a poster on a bus-stop (£100) or buying ads for a local radio campaign (£1000-2000).

I’ve got to admit that I’m ambivalent about this sort of campaign, though clearly I wish it well (and I quite liked the football match commentary). The ‘bus stop’ image reminded me of the “chav nativity” that I blogged a while ago and I’m not convinced that it quite so arresting. Still, any excuse to again post an extract from a post by one of my old blogging pals entitled Christus Natus Est. I urge you to read the whole thing. Preachers: it’s an ideal resource for one of those Christmas-season services you have to do!

She’s fourteen years old, and looks it.
Nine months pregnant,
with a face that says that she’s more than ready to have this baby now!
The man beside her, the one with the huge hands,
the one who’s old enough to be her father,
the one who has hitchiked with her, walked beside her, protected her,
has no idea what to do.
Nowhere to go.
No ambulance on its way.
No one to offer support or warmth or love
No one but each other.
Here,
in a bus shelter.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 10.20.09 at 5:45 pm

Research done this year reveals that 85 per cent of people agree with the statement that “Christmas should be called Christmas because we are still a Christian country.”

What an idiotic statement to put to people. Leaving aside the fact that it begs the question of Britain being a “Christian country”, let alone the question of what being a “Christian country” actually means, the point is that religious demographics are quite irrelevant to whether or not “Christmas should be called Christmas.” Christmas should be called Christmas quite simply because Christmas is Christmas.

Of course I know what the question is getting at. But for the sake of accuracy - and honesty- it should rather go something like: “Given that most people in Britain are either practical atheists or implicit idolators, should the homage paid to Mammon and Bacchus during the months of October to January still be called the ‘Christmas season’?”

As for a “new advertising campaign”, someone please convince me that that pastiche of a painting in a bus shelter will actually do for Jesus what it says on the tin, namely “re-tell the story of his birth in ways which engage positively with the public’s interest [sic].” Heck, on the whole we don’t even re-tell the Christmas story in ways which engage positively with the interest of church-goers themselves. No, I’m afraid that these Christmas advertising campaigns are simply merchandising campaigns, the images and slogans of which ultimately reinforce the commodification of life - including the Christian life - under the hegemony of global capitalism.

There: if Maggie has the distinction of having the first Christmas-related post, I suppose I now have the distinction of exclaiming the first seasonal “Bah! Humbug!”

2

Richard 10.20.09 at 7:08 pm

Don’t hold back, `kim. Tell us what you really think. ;)

3

dh 10.20.09 at 7:23 pm

“Christmas should be called Christmas quite simply because Christmas is Christmas.”
In light of
“Given that most people in Britain are either practical atheists or implicit idolators, should the homage paid to Mammon and Bacchus during the months of October to January still be called the ‘Christmas season’?”

Kim, it seems to me that these two things are contradictary. If it is as you say “Christmas should be Christmas simply because Christmas is Christmas” then whether or not Britain or for any other nation for that matter are atheist and/or idolators should not prevent people from calling Christmas what it is which is Christmas. Calling Christmas for what it is is to set the standard and it is not solely based on whether or not people follow it. Just like the purpose of laws go beyond keeping people from doing bad and therefore must include the reasoning for the law which is to state the standard of right and wrong. Setting the standard of what is right is not a majority rule. What God considers right and wrong is constant and it is not based on what a majority of people believe opposite of what God says is right and wrong.

If a majority of people want to jump off a cliff that doesn’t mean that jumping off a cliff is right. Sorry for making this reply a “cliffhanger”. :)

4

Kim 10.20.09 at 9:20 pm

Yeah, well, Richard, I’ve been visiting Babylon for a week (those with ears to hear, let them hear), so I thought I’d better ease my way back into blogging. ;) It’s reassuring to see that it’s business-as-usual at Connexions - e.g., DH missing the point with unerring (or perhaps I should say “inerrant”) accuracy.

5

Richard 10.20.09 at 9:51 pm

I thought you’d been quiet. Welcome back!

6

fat prophet 10.21.09 at 5:42 am

The real question for me is why do we celebrate Christmas and it is one I had not thought about until I heard David Pawson on UCB radio recently. He asked the question why do we celebrate Christmas? Where is the Biblical foundation for doing so? (Over to you dh because I am sure you will know). He also argued there was no reason for celebrating Easter again on the basis that there is nothing in the Bible to say we should!
I thought he made some interesting and thought provoking observations in respect of this topic - he did add that the only thing we were really told to do was remember the Lord’s Supper.
I think I might even err of Kim’s side with his Bah! Humbug in respect of the advertising campaigns - I am not sure any of them in the last few years have really done the trick for me or for anyone I know and I think he is right in his inference that we seem largely unable to tell the Christmas story in ways which our congregations engage with , but then they ‘know’ the story inside out and back to front (or think they do).
Love the two words as well commodification and hegemony - two more I hope will pop up in Readers Digest!!

7

DmL 10.21.09 at 5:47 am

For retellings I prefer the Cotton-patch Gospel.

8

Kim 10.21.09 at 6:30 am

David Pawson - now there’s a blast from the past. When, in the late seventies, I’d just become a Christian while living in Haslemere, Surrey, some mates and I would occasionally go up on a Sunday evening to his (Baptist) church in Guildford. These friends suggested that my own local URC was dead, but that at the Millmead Centre I would experience Spirit-lead and Bible-based worship. And so I learned to thank God for so-called dead churches.

It’s interesting, Fat Prophet, to see a Methodist citing Pawson, as he left the Methodist Church after appearing before its doctrinal committee over the issue of infant baptism. I remember Pawson as a quite engaging character, but his relentless and uncompromising fundamentalism was the pits. Indeed it was his eschatology - I was reading Moltmann at the time I encountered him - and his doctrine of hell in particular, that put me off him for good. Subsequently I have occasionally peeped into some of his books in those awful, unctuous Christian bookshops, and his views on Israel and men’s leadership (among others) have only gone to confirm my opinion that, given life’s brevity, there are better ways to spend one’s theological time. And if the Bible says nothing about celebrating Christmas or Easter, it mercifully says nothing about listening to Pawson either.

9

Tony Buglass 10.21.09 at 8:04 am

Of course there is no biblical instructions to celebrate Christmas - unless you see the singing angelic choir as an example to follow. So what? I recall a broadbrush definition of the difference between Calvin and Luther in their approach to reformation: Calvin would allow only what the Bible allowed, while Luther would allow anything the Bible did not explicitly forbid.

On those grounds, I’ll line up with Luther. The Bible doesn’t tell me NOT to give thanks for the birth of the Son of God, or celebrate the incarnation with its profound implications for our understanding of the nature of God and the nature of religion. I like Christmas. I really don’t want to waste time on those killjoys who’re telling me I shouldn’t be doing it.

Of course, the mammonfest which happens in December is nothing to do with the birth of Christ. It just happens around the same time. Yes, we will have a family get-togther, and give each other gifts - but most importantly, we WILL celebrate the gift of Christ.

10

dh 10.21.09 at 4:11 pm

“Of course, the mammonfest which happens in December is nothing to do with the birth of Christ. It just happens around the same time. Yes, we will have a family get-togther, and give each other gifts - but most importantly, we WILL celebrate the gift of Christ.”

While I wouldn’t place “mammonfest” as the term, I really liked your explaination here, Tony. I think that haning a place where people give gifts around Christmas time who might not believe in Christianity is better than having no celebration at all. That was the point I was getting at and what Kim said indirectly implied that. Kim, might not believe that but the words that were written show the that view: ” Christmas should be called Christmas quite simply because Christmas is Christmas.”

Having it be at the same time is not bad because the celebration of Christs birth is what sets the standard for all of those who celebrate it in a different way. I personally believe that it is good to have it at the same time so that we as Christians can show to the world what Christmas is all about the celebration of the birth of Christ and the gifts that were given to Jesus at the time of His birth.

11

fat prophet 10.21.09 at 8:24 pm

Did I give the impression I agreed with David Pawson? It would seem it from Tony’s response that he has read it that way or was he pretending to be somebody else and grasping the wrong end of the stick?
I was merely saying that I found the viewpoint interesting!!
My real point which seems to have been missed is the poor effect of the advertising campaigns which have probably cost a large amount of money.

12

Tony Buglass 10.21.09 at 8:39 pm

Panic not, FP, I wasn’t seriously considering that you agreed with David Pawson - I was simply springboarding from your comments into an issue which I’ve argued in other places. The point that the Bible doesn’t command or commend Christmas doesn’t matter a jot. That was my point.

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