Christmas is coming! Talk about stating the obvious – at least it is unavoidably obvious if you’re in the UK at the moment. The big supermarkets have been selling us Christmas food and other paraphernalia for weeks now – months even. But it’s around this time each year the big players launch their Christmas adverts. I think John Lewis got in first with their penguins and then Tescos did the big light show in response to a customer complaint last year. And then this week saw the launch of Sainsbury’s offering for this 2014 season.
TV and other advertising bugs me at the best of times – I think those of us who have plenty should not be encouraged to buy even more stuff we really don’t need when so many still live in dire poverty both at home and abroad. But that’s probably a rant for another day!
It’s probably, though, fair to say that my general dislike of us being encouraged to consume more and more lay behind my initial and very real discomfort from the moment I first watched this advertisement. It is a stunningly well-made short film but there just seemed something inherently distasteful to me about using the Christmas 1914 truce story in this way – it just didn’t sit right with me. And that wasn’t just because of the strapline ‘Christmas is for sharing’ – while I would hope that sharing goes on all the time and definitely at Christmas, that’s certainly not the ‘meaning of the season’ I’ll be preaching at our Christmas services (on or around 25 December – not in mid-November!).
There’s been a lot of discussion in my social media feed since the advert was first shown and lots of different and, at times, opposing views have been expressed. Interestingly, quite a few of those I know well are also expressing discomfort with this one.
I hadn’t quite got to the crux of what I might want to say myself about my thoughts on this one but then I read this article in the Guardian newspaper and feel it expresses my own problem with the advert far more coherently than I seem able to do. In particular, two points jump out for me: using this story for commercial means (advertising a major retailer), and then the journalist’s closing comment about how this incredibly poignant and beautiful film itself beautifies one of the worst things human beings have ever done to one another.
And the horrors of war – and of World War One in particular in this centenary year – are not something we should ever seek to make look beautiful. The young men portrayed here exchanging greetings, sharing photographs, and wishing one another Happy Christmas/Frohe Weihnachten were back to doing their best to annihilate one another when Boxing Day dawned.
I wonder what you think about what Sainsbury’s have put together here?