Friday, December 22, 2006

The Branding of Christmas

In the Business Section of today's NYT's is a little article that piqued my interest. An advertising company is trying to "freshen" up Christmas with a branding approach, giving Christmas a unique graphic design. I went on to google image to try and find some samples but came up empty. Basically, the images were the graphic apple of Apple Computers with ".mas" following it, or a Nike "swoosh" with a ".mas" following it. You get the idea; take a company logo that is clean and crisp and marry it with a "." to the word "mas", thereby eliminating all references to "Christ" and the religious issues that complicate business transactions and get down to what Christmas is really all about; four month of selling from October through January.
While the pastor in me recoils from such a nakedly commercial appraoch to Christmas, another part of me is intrigued with this type of creativity; an attempt to bring some freshness to Victorian images of fat men with beards and ladies in long dresses gathered around pianos in homes lit with candles. The preacher's (read "my") dilemma for each Christmas is what can possibly be fresh or new or unique? Families gather and, from what my good friend George Barna says, more are attending Christmas Eve candle-light services than Easter services. The Christmas Eve service is now more popular with main-stream culture than Easter. Is it because it has so many other cultural, familial, and romantic images surrounding it? Images that are safe and "Jesus-less" or, at least, keeping Jesus as a safe and cuddly baby? But what can I actually say about the astounding metaphysical assertion that the infinite, timeless, shapeless God of the universe compressed himself (gender??) into the form of a human man going through the dangerous process of natural birth? I can barely approach that mystery.
Maybe the better approach would be to warn people: Watch out! This night declares that something mysterious happened in the course of human history that is too big for words: Christ.mas!


At 2:23 PM , Blogger Rick said...

I LIKE Christ.mas. I'm not crazy about (apple logo).mas or (nike logo).mas.

My Dad wrote a devotional a couple years ago for our church's advent devotional guide. It observed how culture wants the Christ out of Christmas, and if you take it out, what is left? "mas" , which of course is spanish for "more" - which is exactly what culture wants. Give me more toys, more money, more pleasure, more options, more whatever. Contrast that to the Jesus who emptied himself - and JI Packer's comment in "Knowing God" that the true Christmas Spirit is the spirit of those who spend and are spent themselves for the sake of the message of Jesus.

At 3:50 PM , Blogger Gary Means said...

American secular, cultural holidays with religious roots: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

The "secularization" of "Xmas" has not quite taken hold yet. There has even been a bit of a backlash against "Happy Holidays". And here in Seattle, the airport did reinstall the "Holiday Trees" after the threatened legal action was dropped.

Christmas is about Frosty, presents, Rudolph, shopping, Home Alone, eating, the Grinch, decorating, presents, eggnog, seasonal charity, and the Christmas/Xmas/Holiday tree. In America there is no need to even mention Jesus.

As for Easter, it's all about Bunny, eggs, egg hunts (the latest church-growth gimmick), candy, and marshmallow peeps. In America there is no need to even mention Jesus.

We're not quite all the way there yet, but as a society, we're well on our way. I don't know how it is in other parts of the country, but in our State less than 1 out of 10 people attend church, and that 10% is shrinking. That's especially true in the Seattle area.

This year I have found that people are always a little startled when I say, "Merry Christmas". Then, after a pause, there's a grateful, if somewhat furtive, "Merry Christmas" back to me. The Pacific Northwest is definitely a politcally-correct, post-Christian zone.

At my company, which employs over 17,000 people worldwide, we used to have a Christmas Party. Ten years ago or so it changed to a Holiday Party. Then more recently it became the Winter Party. Last year we became even more politically correct. No party in December at all. There was an "Employee Appreciation Party" in September, with a Casino theme.

I'm surprised that employees get Christmas off. Most employers don't recognize Easter. My wife works for the King County Library system, where Easter is just another work day. If you're scheduled to work that Sunday, you have to take a day of vacation if you want to celebrate it with your family.

So Donn, may you, and all those you love, experience a special, blessed celebration of the birth of the Christ child. Merry Christmas!


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