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A child is bought

The image at the centre of this year’s Christmas Starts With Christ campaign aims to capture the public’s attention

The image at the centre of this year’s Christmas Starts With Christ campaign aims to capture the public’s attention, says MIKE ELMS

Some years ago I was despatched to the shops to buy a Christmas present for our three-year-old daughter. A Teletubby. Preferably Po. But Laa-Laa or Dipsy would do. I soon found that I was one of several million fathers on a similar mission.

A few years later saw me on another fruitless quest, this time for a Thunderbirds Tracy Island.
Every year seems to bring a new must-have toy that gets us scouring the shops on behalf of kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews.

So, what will be this year’s must-have Christmas gift? Wouldn’t it be great if it were to be Jesus Christ!

It’s not entirely a pipedream. Underneath all the tinsel, there is still a desire in our country to see that Christmas remains rooted in Christianity. In research, 85% of people agree that “Christmas should be called Christmas because we are still a Christian country”. But, research also shows that only 12% of adults know the Christmas story – and just 7% amongst 18 to 24-year-olds.

So, if Christians want to keep Christmas focused on Christ, we need to be retelling the story of his birth in ways that engage creatively and positively with the public’s interest.

This is the aim of ChurchAds.Net, an ecumenical charity comprising senior communications experts from all major denominations and many Christian organisations, including Premier Christian Media, Church Army and Evangelical Alliance.

Our Christmas Starts with Christ campaign aims to capture the general public’s attention and create interest in the Christmas story by retelling it in modern, secular contexts.

Poster ads in previous years have set the nativity in a bus shelter, ‘re-dressed’ it in high fashion and featured a dramatic ‘Jesus babyscan’. Radio ads have placed the story in a football match, horse race and pop chart countdown.

Some 41% of people say the campaign makes them think more about the true meaning of Christmas. So, how do we position Jesus as this year’s must-have present?

The solution is a masterpiece of creative simplicity.

Giant billboards will advertise a cute brown-eyed boy doll in a blue bodysuit. Jesus: the ‘GodBaby doll’ that cries, wees and saves the world!

With eye-catching design and gentle humour it’s a very contemporary and powerful way of communicating the nativity message that Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, came to us for our salvation. And with a subtle dig at excessive yuletide consumerism, the poster reminds us that this God-given gift is not available in the shops.

Bishop Nick Baines gives it an enthusiastic thumbs up: “It’s another strong and arresting image. It will surprise some and disturb others. Which is exactly what the real Jesus did. And it forces us beyond the tinsel to the human reality of ‘God among us‘.”

Nick Spencer at Theos agrees: “We don’t expect God to be a baby. He’s supposed to be awesome, powerful and scary. But he was also a baby. Fully human, yet fully divine. Like all ChurchAds campaigns ‘GodBaby’ takes us to the heart of Christmas – and reminds us that it’s not available in the shops. Christmas Starts with Christ.”

You can see the poster and listen to the new radio commercial, which tells the nativity in the style of a celebrity chef, at the Churchads website. And you can download a selection of images and radio ads for free! You’ll also find an advertising resources pack full of creative ideas, advice and materials.

A grant from Jerusalem Trust will enable us to place the poster on high-visibility billboard sites around the country and run the radio ad on youth-oriented radio stations.

But, the real power of the campaign lies in the hands of local churches. All the materials and advice you need are free at our website. Will you use them to reach your local community and remind them that Christmas Starts with Christ?

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