I am not sure of the number of complaints that have been raised in response to the Christmas adverts this year all telling us Christmas is coming, that we need to prepare for the day, with the help of John Lewis, Morrisons, Lidle, Aldi, Sainsbury, Tesco or M&S, all who hold out the promise that with them it will be a magical and special day.
Preparations for Christmas are certainly now under full steam. The first advert I saw was back in September in Jamaica – to be fair it was not a Jamaican advert it was an American advert that was trying to be clever by saying it was not really an advert for Christmas but Christmas is coming none the less…
On Friday I woke up to news of crowds, fights and even the hospitalisation of shoppers caught up in another American import that it seems we will have to get used to “Black Friday” or maybe it should be called Riot Friday, or Fools Friday. I was one of countless hundreds or maybe it was thousands who travelled to Bicester village to get a long list of presents for family and on the whole I am glad to report it was incident free – queues Oh yes plenty of them, my wife and playing like a tag team to cut down the waiting time – but no stampede or anger just resigned patience that in my case was nearer to despair most of the time.
Certainly there was an air of surreal irony with a beautifully attired choir put on by the retail village serenading the shoppers with the carol In a bleak mid winter “What shall I give him, Poor as I am ” standing outside a Alexander MQueen’s shop where his frocks begin at £1K (and that discounted remember)
But let me return to the Adverts for Christmas this year. John Lewis appeared to be leading the saccharin stakes last week, but Monty the Penguin has been eclipsed by Sainsbury’s mighty campaign harking back to World War 1 according to the article in the independent yesterday.
Certainly the Sainsbury’s advert has caused the most controversy, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) have received 250 complaints compared with one person being offended by John Lewis’ exploitation of penguins.
However on the plus side of the Sainsbury Advert, celebrating 20 year of support of the Royal British Legion is selling 500 bars of chocolate every minute so raising considerable funds for the legion’s work.
The extra ordinary events around the first Christmas of the 1st world war of course do give us something to think about in the days of preparation for our celebration of Christmas 100 years on.
What is it that touches you most when you see the 3 minute film and when you reflect on the events leading to Christmas day1914 on the Western Front?
Is it the motivation of those men who dared to leave their trenches and enter no mans land in the days before Christmas in 1914? It was sadly never repeated and maybe it was the final gasp of Christian influence in Europe that has over the last 100 years since that Christmas waxed and waned.
Is it the testimony to the risk involved of putting away the business of war for a moment and acknowledge the shared interest and identity, yes common humanity through football, a handshake, a picture of a girl back home.
High on my list is the demonstration of our humanity that for a moment shone in the silent night when the stars were allowed to guide the human heart to God and there be released from the thrall of those in the halls of power that were locked in a desperate and futile struggle for dominance and earthly empire.
The Christmas story, when rescued from the saccharin and nonsense of the consumer driven exploitation, is one of humanity; one that touches our humanity in a unique way; of God who for a moment chose to become one of us, a child born of a woman. For our Christmas celebration that we now look to in these four precious weeks holds out the truth that God became a human being and in this daring and risky venture leads us to change the way we live not just for one day but the whole of our lives.
The Christmas story that we now try and prepare for against a backdrop of shopping frenzy, parties and excess is one that reminds us that because of God’s decision to become a human being every human life is precious to him and should be to us.
So the question remains for you and me today as we embark on the season of Advent : what will be the ways in which we seek to put aside all that entrenches our lives and seek out that which will encourage us to leave behind the old or even secure certainties and reach out to share the love of God that we have in our hearts with those around us?
Advent is a time when we cry out “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” a time when we look for the return of our Saviour Jesus Christ’s return, a time when we acknowledge our own frail humanity and our need for God to come and “disperse the gloomy clouds of night and deaths dark shadows put to flight.”
Congratulations to iara who was baptised today at St. John's