Friday, December 15, 2006

"Isn't there anybody who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"

So I'm driving down the road when I see this billboard for a local church (one of the big ones, obviously. Billboards cost at the minimum 5 figures). It reads: "Christmas at __________." A _________ tradition." (let the reader understand).

And I'm not picking on this church, just describing. One one end of the billboard, arranged to look like a snapshot, is a picture of the smiling pastor. The other side looks like an out of focus picture of a Christmas tree, heavy on the lights (I didn't have time to stop and stare, this is just my impression.) My first question was: is this what Christmas is all about? Smiling pastor and fuzzy lights? No Jesus? No Mary and Joseph, star or donkeys, magi or manger? (And ask yourself some day why even the most devoutly anti-Catholic Protestants put up manger scenes in their churches. But I digress....) No mention at all about sin, redemption, salvation, no explanation about why this child was "Our Savior"?

That was the seasonal question, of course. The other question that popped unbidden (well, almost) into my head was: why do churches advertise?

Seriously. Advertising is to sell a product. Billboards are expensive. There must be some idea of a return on that kind of investment. And why advertise your Christmas as a local tradition? Do traditions have to be advertised to be traditions? What product is being sold here? Not even the manger and the baby and the Magi: just a man's smiling head and some soft-focus lights.

Why do churches advertise? What business are they in?

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