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11-opinion-2

Putting Christ back in Christmas

HUGH DOUGHERTY reckons Christian denominations should play consumerism at its own game —By HUGH DOUGHERTY

It’s just about time to hear a senior clergyman, usually an Anglican, declare that Christ has been taken out of Christmas, now a, secular, midwinter fest of excess spending, eating and drinking alcohol for the majority of people in the country.

And, you could be forgiven for agreeing, as the TV adverts tell us that Christmas is about perfume, food, toys, electrical gadgets, even sales in the shops, but, nowhere, in among all of that, is there a mention of Christ, who is, despite the fact that most people don’t make the connection, at the very heart of Christmas.

Now, it’s fine, like that clergyman, to wring our hands in horror and to bemoan the fact that, as Christians, we’ve lost it in the run-up to one of our greatest feasts of the year.

But, the fact it, that our Anglican friend, our Bishops, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and any other Christian leaders, many of whom seem to spend a great deal of time sitting down together under the banner of ecumenism, have failed to put Christ back at the heart of Christmas for the nation. What we’re subjected to, is an onslaught of slick, well-resourced consumer advertising, as manufacturers seek to capitalise on their version of Christmas, yet we haven’t even started to compete with them.

What I suggest is that, in plenty of time for next year, all the Christian denominations stop wringing their hands in despair over the run up to Christmas, and combine their resources to run a Christian advertising campaign, on TV, on social media, on billboards, bus shelters and in newspapers, to declare, simply, ‘CHRIST at the heart of CHRISTmas’.

That way, we would be competing on a level playing field, by getting our, vital, Christian message across, and wresting Christmas back from the world of business, exploitation and excess. You could argue such a campaign would be expensive, but, the way the advertising market is these days, early booking of space is how to get the best possible deal, and the sheer novelty value of such a campaign would generate its own stories and momentum as a free extra.

Now, wouldn’t that put Scotland’s unholy alliance of secularists, humanists, and libertarians on the back foot? For, we, the Christians, would be making the news, instead of responding to it, as we do on far too many occasions, while the media organisations from whom we bought the space, would be only too glad for the business and couldn’t afford to turn us down.

The lesson is that we have a superb set of values and story to tell, but that we can’t expect to get it across unless we are willing to put our money where our mouth is.

By combining resources with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can raise the cash to afford what we can’t afford to do on our own, and a unified Christian message, telling the whole of society that Christ is at the heart of Christmas, begins to reclaim December 25 as a Christian feast with a real message for all people.

Gone are the days when the Christian churches are listened to, just because they are there. A good example is the recent press release from the Scottish Catholic Media Office, telling the media that the bishops have written to Nicola Sturgeon asking for dialogue on the vexed issue of abortion.

Beyond our own Catholic and other Christian media, I could find just one newspaper, The National, covering the story, with scant broadcast mention. As Catholics, our default position would be to say that the media is biased against the Catholic Church and the pro-life movement.

But, while it may be true that the politically-correct, humanistic, largely younger news editors and decision-makers in the Scottish media are very receptive to the abortion lobby, I would have to say that we would have got equally good coverage if the letter had been launched at a press conference, with, vitally, a live mother, father and baby to tell their story, and to be available for photographs with the bishops and their letter. It, of course, should have been delivered, by hand, to the First Minister’s official residence, and there should also have been a bought-in advert in the media, to ensure that the Church’s viewpoint was published.

That illustrates the Christmas issue, perfectly, for, as Catholics and as Christians, we have failed to recognise that, just because we think we are important and should be listened to, the media will be falling over itself to do just that, when, in reality, we have to earn our place in it, and that may mean putting out hands in our pockets in a planned way.

So, Christian Church leaders, long before next Christmas and your annual regret about the march of the secular winter fest, sit down together, agree a budget, put your money in the Christmas war chest, engage an effective public relations and advertising agency, and put Christ at the heart of Christmas, where He belongs.

 

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