Blogmas Day 14: Carrot Sticks (McDonalds, 2017)…

Picture those magi- wisemen, kings, whatever you want to call them. Imagine those visitors from the East who came to visit Jesus after his birth baring gifts both strange and poignant.

I wonder if they came across many people as they travelled, people who they told where they were going. That they were going to visit the new born king, showed people the gifts they were taking with them. I wonder if they got strange looks, like the little girl from the lady on the bus.

You see the thing is, the carrot stick would be the perfect gift for reindeer, the little girl is indeed reindeer ready as the advert tells us. But the other people in the advert can see that it is also a little bit weird. One small carrot stick clutched in a mittened hand to onlookers seems a surprising gift to be taking to a reindeer, especially when, as her brother points out, it is in fact a troop of reindeer and not just the one.

As the wisemen clutched these gifts that they knew were perfect, I wonder if other people looked on and doubted the suitedness of the gift.

When it comes to the things we offer to God, I wonder if we too can feel like the little girl clutching one tiny carrot in our mitten, while people look on with raised eyebrows. Or like a wiseman taking a bottle of burial perfume to a new-born baby. But the thing these two gift givers have in common is that they know the person they are giving the gift too, and know that the gift is perfect.

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Blogmas Day 13: The Bear and The Hare (John Lewis, 2013)…

If I’d been clever, I would have synced this advert with the second Sunday of Advent, because I want us to think about prophets. Traditionally the second week of advert is a time when we recall the part the prophets of the Old Testament played in the foretelling and advent of Jesus.

In the advert, the hare is desperate for the bear not to miss Christmas Day. The hare knows that Christmas day is so exciting, so good, that he wants his friend the bear to be there, to see it and experience everything. And so the hare does all he can, giving the perfect gift, to the bear to ensure that he wakes up in time for Christmas day. That’s how important it is.

The prophets of the Old Testament are like the hare, their message from God weighing heavily on their hearts. They are desperate for God’s people to wake up, to not miss the coming Messiah, not to sleep through the promise of their salvation.

These prophets, although you won’t find them on a Christmas card or nestled in a nativity scene, are vital to Christmas. Without the prophesies of old, even the people in the birth narratives would have slept through Jesus’ birth. These prophesies were the alarm clock alerting humanity to the coming Messiah.

I wonder how often we are like the bear, sleeping our way through advent, perhaps this year we could all reread something from the prophets, waking us up to what and who is coming.

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Blogmas Day 12: The Stepdad (Disney 2021)…

I often think about Joseph when it comes to Christmas. Sure he gets many mentions in the nativity story, featuring on lots of Christmas cards and being a coveted role in the nativity plays, but I often wonder if Joseph felt anything like the man in this Disney advert; like a stepdad trying to find his place in a family and with a child he loved but had no genetic link to.

Joseph sort of disappears from Jesus’ story after the early days, we’re not told what happens to him, but most assume he’s probably died by the time Jesus starts his public ministry. But We do have a story of Joseph being present when Jesus was 12, and we can assume that by this point Jesus is following in his stepfather’s footsteps of carpentry, learning the family trade.

But Joseph isn’t Jesus’ dad, and I wonder of there were times when that was painfully obvious, when Jesus was a teenager pushing the family boundaries. Or when Joseph looked at his son and didn’t see a family likeness. And yet Joseph stayed and still they were a family.

As in the advert, it is neither genetics nor blood that truly make a family, but presence and love. At Christmas the holy family teach us this, that a family can just be a group of people who find themselves together, working out how to live together and working out how to love each other.

Perhaps this Advent can be a timely reminder to us that love is what makes a family as we work out how to live with the people we find ourselves with, whether they are actually related to us or not.

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Blogmas Day 11: Moz the Monster (John Lewis, 2017)…

A lot of people get told not to be afraid in the Christmas story. Mary, the shepherds all told not to be scared when they are suddenly faced with the slightly terrifying sight of angels giving them alarming news.

Moz the monster is scary to start with. He’s alarming to look at and is suddenly just there under the little boys bed- it is a bit scary! But everything else about Moz, who he is and the fact that he just wanted to be friends with the boy who’s bed he lived under is really not scary. At all.

You can perhaps understand why the people in the nativity were just a little bit afraid, Mary told she is expecting a miracle child, the shepherds greeted by a sky full of angles and sung down from the hills. Things that don’t happen every day, and things if we’re honest that might seem just a touch scary.

 The world’s a scary place, there is much to alarm and unsettle us. There is darkness all over the place, and if we let it, it could all just get a bit overwhelming.

But we are told, as Mary and the shepherds are told, multiple times in the Christmas story- do not be afraid. Jesus is the light of the world, he is the gift that will brighten up our world. Even though the events of Jesus’ birth might seem unsettling, even though our world looks dark and scary at first glance, those who walked in darkness have seen a great light.

This Advent, we have nothing to be afraid of.

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Blogmas Day 10: Gingerbread Stall (Waitrose, 2015)…

I don’t know what you’re like at gift giving. You might pride yourself on your ability to find the perfect thing for every single person in your life, or you might prefer to stick to everyone’s list for fear of going off piste and getting the wrong thing. We might look at the gifts that those invited to come and see the infant Jesus and wonder what on earth they were doing giving gifts like that. Some sheep, a lump of gold and a couple of bottles of perfume aren’t going to top anyone’s baby shower lists are they.

But they were the perfect gifts for Jesus. Yes there is huge symbolism in the magi’s gifts pointing to who Jesus would become. But the bigger reason that these gifts are perfect is because they were simply given. These were gifts offered in adoration for this new born baby King. These things were all this group of people had to offer, and so offer them they did.

I don’t actually remember this advert being on the telly much in 2015, it came to my attention when I was reminding myself of others, and I really love it. There is a real beauty to the way this little girl gives of herself in this advert. She doesn’t think she has anything to offer much at all, and she doesn’t actually want to really, it would definitely be easier if she didn’t. But the gingerbread stall is happening and so she gives what and all she can.

It reminds me of the final verse of the carol, In the Bleak Midwinter, “What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart.” We may not feel like we have anything much at all to give the son of God, it would probably be a bit easier if we didn’t have to. But perhaps this advent we could all give what and all we can, simply our hearts to the baby boy in the hay.

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Blogmas Day 9: Mog’s Calamity (Sainsbury’s 2015)…

The Messiah was supposed to be big news. The prophesies about a coming Messiah who would come to rescue God’s chosen people had been happening for hundreds of years before Mary and Joseph ever got to the stable. The Israelites knew these prophesies, probably memorised many of them, and watched for signs of his coming.

If you are told, for hundreds of years, that God has a rescue mission, that someone is going  to come and deal with all your enemies and save you from everything, you’re going to have a picture in your mind of what you’re expecting. A tiny baby, born into poverty, and attracting attention from  all the wrongs sorts of people is the exact opposite of what the Israelites expected and probably wanted. This Messiah wasn’t strong, impressive and right now he couldn’t even control his own bladder. What a weird rescue mission.

In the advert Mog saves the day, she is a hero, but in a way that feels very unhero-like. If the family had been told that their Christmas was going to be saved, I can almost guarantee that this wouldn’t be the way they pictured or wanted it at all. But this is the rescue mission and the hero they get.

Jesus is the Messiah and the incarnation is the rescue mission we get, even if it’s not what we expected.

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Blogmas Day 8: The Supporting Act (BBC1, 2017)…

Humanity was in a mess. The story of the Old Testament makes no secrets of this. It is our shared story how time and time again we turned our back and ignored God the father, who loved and pursued.

In the advert the dad is there the whole time, never once was he absent, but the little girl was so consumed with her dance that she was too busy to take much notice of the fact that her dad was there, loving her and looking after her the whole time. In the end, the thing that made her realise he was there, and had been there the whole time, was him getting on her level, showing her he knew her dance, and was just like her.

In the end, for us to notice and realise that God was there, and had been there the whole time, loving us, God needed to get on our level. Jesus needed to come as a human being, because for humanity to take a blind bit of notice of him, he needed to show us that he knew our dance, and could dance it along with us when we forget our steps and get stage fright.

Maybe Advent this year could be our timely reminder that God our Father is there, has always been there, loving us, pursuing us, and knows all the steps just in case we forget what we’re doing.

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Blogmas Day 7: The Journey (John Lewis 2012)…

We’re on journeys again, and another absolute banging song. For me the journey the snowman goes on here sums up the journey of the Godhead to make the incarnation possible. In the advert the snowman knew the perfect gift for the snow woman, and was prepared to go to any lengths to make it happen, even if it was costly and dangerous to him.

The journey to incarnation, and throughout life, wasn’t easy for Jesus. It was costly and dangerous and was ultimately a journey that saw him start life amongst animal poo, and end it dying the agonising death of a criminal. But his presence as God among and with us was worth the cost. Jesus’ presence as Immanuel, God with us, was the perfect gift for which God was willing to go to any lengths.

For me, the message of this advert is twinned perfectly with the lyrics of its soundtrack, “The power of love, a force from above.” This is what love looks like, to go to any lengths to give of oneself for others, in spite of danger and without counting the cost. Jesus himself told his followers that there was no greater love than to lie down ones life for others.

This Advent, maybe we can all begin to understand in new ways the power of that kind of love, which is a force from above. And to live lives modelled after Jesus, God incarnate, being willing to journey on, not counting the cost, for the love of others.

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Blogmas Day 6: Light up Everything (Asda, 2015)…

Christmas isn’t subtle. I think it’s probably getting less subtle as the years go by. As I write this, I can see the glowing aura of my neighbour’s Christmas lights, which are beautiful, but far from subtle. I’m looking forward to wearing my new Christmas waistcoat with my clerical collar this year, and friends it is anything but subtle! And while I guess there is maybe some sadness in the commercialisation, the noise, the busyness that Christmas has become, at its heart, Christmas was not subtle.

The thing is, the baby could have been born without any pre warning, but he wasn’t the prophets had been telling the world for hundreds of years prior to his birth. The baby could have been born without anyone else knowing, but the heavenly host simply couldn’t keep it to themselves. This was not a subtle birth, even though it did happen in obscurity.

And actually, it could never have been subtle, because light is like that. Jesus, this baby boy, is the light of the world. In a dark place, even the tiniest spark of light shines bright. Light isn’t subtle. Jesus, light of the world, being born into this dark world, isn’t subtle.

So this advent, perhaps our challenge could be to similarly not be subtle. To light everything up, with the light of Christ.

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Blogmas Day 5: How can I keep from Singing? (Waitrose 2008)…

I’ve already alluded to this advert holding a special place in my heart, because it was the first one that connected with me in some way. And if I’m honest the song is a massive part of that. The advert itself picks up on that theme of journeys again, which are such a massive part of the Christmas story.

But that hymn, ‘How can I keep from singing?’ just underlines the very reason for all of those journeys, to this same place, to see this same long expected gift.

All the people gathered in the classic nativity scene; the inn keeper, the shepherds, the wisemen, all the angels and Mary and Joseph crammed into the stable to simply gaze upon the Christ child. For me that final verse of the hymn captivates something that I can imagine them all thinking. “The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing! All things are mine since I am his! How can I keep from singing?”

The peace this tiny baby boy in the hay brings refreshes tired an weary hearts, a fountain bringing refreshing water of life at the end of these long journeys. Gazing on the face of the Christ child, perhaps this ragtag group of people understand who this baby is, who he will become, and they understand that they in this gift they have all things, because they are his. How could they, how could we, keep from singing?

This advent, perhaps we too simply need to gaze on the face of the Christ child and allow him to refresh our tired and wearied hearts, and in knowing we are his, and in so knowing, how could we keep from singing?

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