In this heavily commercialized time of year, advertisements constantly call for our attention, from Halloween to Thanksgiving and on through Christmas. There’s always something to sell, it seems, whether candy and costumes, turkey and travel, or presents and poinsettias.
One major retailer’s Christmas television commercial has especially caught my eye this season. It doesn’t feature any particular product for sale. Instead, it simply shows cheerful people decorating their homes for Christmas, while also walking through the housewares section of this retailer’s store. The words of the peppy song that customers and employees sing to one another as they go about their shopping and decorating are simply, “May you have joy, comfort, and peace.”
The tune is catchy and has stuck in my mind, along with the name of the retailer. The message of the song seems appropriate for the Christmas season, a wish for joy, comfort, and peace. So, in one sense, the commercial seems effective and positive.
At the same time, I found myself thinking, has this retailer simply co-opted these three amazing, miraculous blessings that were proclaimed by the angels when Jesus was born, for the purpose of selling merchandise? Rather than joy, don’t they really mean happy feelings? Rather than the comfort of not being afraid of God’s wrath, don’t they really mean being physically comfortable, perhaps with the help of what you buy at their store? And rather than the peace that comes from being reconciled with God by trusting in Christ, don’t they mean quiet holiday time with friends and family?
This retailer is simply doing what so many merchants do at this time of year—promising the benefits of Christmas without speaking of their true source.
As I looked online at this and other commercials, I found new Christmas ad campaigns titled “Rebuild the World,” “Believe,” “Walk This Way,” and “One Step Closer to Home.” I’m sure they were all creatively, inspirationally, and expensively produced. But I guarantee they do not understand, promise, or deliver in those messages what the Christ child did when he came to earth.
Still, let’s not just lament what we already know to be true and regrettable about commercialism at Christmas. Instead, let’s take advantage of these counterfeit or corrupted Christmas messages when we see them, and turn them into conversations about the real messages of Christmas. Let’s turn Christmas conversations into gospel conversations.
For example, how simple it would be to ask someone if they had seen the commercial about “joy, comfort, and peace.” Ask what they think of when they think of true joy. Or perhaps, when was the last time they feel they experienced it? What an opportunity to tell someone about the joy that we find in relationship to Christ, no matter the outward circumstances.
Apparently the commercial titled “Believe” is about a reindeer who is squeamish about flying. What a great, light-hearted conversation starter, that could lead to what it means to believe in something wonderful that seems impossible.
And Christmas conversations needn’t be tied to advertisements alone. There are so many ideas and phrases out in the culture at this time of year that can lead someone spiritually back to the true message of Christmas. As is true all year round, the question is whether we are looking for them.
They say the way they teach FBI agents to spot counterfeit currency is by training them thoroughly to know the real thing. As we spot counterfeit or corrupted messages this holiday season, let’s turn them into Christmas conversations that may lead someone to know Jesus personally.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.