As Christians, we love the fun and festivity of Christmas as much as anyone: it is a special time of year, a time of family, of receiving and of giving. But we also bemoan the ever increasing marginalisation of Christ.
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, we invited churches in Christmas 2009 to participate in a new advertising campaign. Designed to run for at least five years, it featured the line: “Christmas starts with Christ” and retold the nativity story in a modern, secular context.
Churches and individuals were able to get involved in the campaign in these ways…
Buy a bus stop – Posters on bus shelters displayed a painting by the renowned artist, Andrew Gadd, in which he depicts the nativity scene in a modern day equivalent of a stable – a bus shelter.
Buy radio – Our radio adverts cleverly and light-heartedly set the nativity in the context of a soccer match, a horse race, a police car chase and even the Christmas pop chart countdown.
Write a carol –A recent survey revealed that doorstep carol singing has declined significantly in recent years, with only 2% of people planning to go carol singing this year. So we teamed up with Ecclesiastical Insurance and invited people to come up with their very own Christmas carol.
Run your own campaign – Churches could download a high resolution image of the poster for free, or order a printed version, to display on church noticeboards, house windows, and so on.
Church leaders across the denominations welcomed the campaign and encouraged churches to get involved.
Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon, says: “This year’s atheist bus adverts backfired (for the atheists) by putting God on the public agenda and provoking people to ask if he is there. Well, Christians now have a chance to say a firm and confident ‘Yes, and he looks like Jesus! Christmas is his festival.'”