Christmas is a time to celebrate enduring traditions. Trees, mistletoe, binge eating, rampant consumerism. But in adland one of the most enduring traditions is seeing what progressive Auckland church St Matthew in the City puts on its billboard to celebrate the festive season and waiting for the angry response to ensue. Last year it was M&C Saatchi showing Mary and Joseph’s post-coital awkwardness and this year it’s the follow up from TBWA: a billboard showing a shocked Mary looking at the results of her pregnancy test.
Vicars Glynn Cardy and Clay Nelson posted this release on the St Matthew in the City webpage.
It’s real. Christmas is real. It’s about a real pregnancy, a real mother and a real child. It’s about real anxiety, courage and hope.
This billboard portrays Mary, Jesus’ mother, looking at a home pregnancy test kit revealing that she is pregnant. Regardless of any premonition, that discovery would have been shocking. Mary was unmarried, young, and poor. This pregnancy would shape her future. She was certainly not the first woman in this situation or the last.
As in the past it is our intention to avoid the sentimental, trite and expected to spark thought and conversation in the community. This year we hope to do so with an image and no words. We invite you to wonder what your caption might be.
Although the make-believe of Christmas is enjoyable – with tinsel, Santa [St Matthew even invites him along for a Christmas eve service, reindeer, and carols – there are also some realities. Many in our society are suffering: some through the lack of money, some through poor health, some through violence, and some through other hardships. The joy of Christmas is muted by anxiety.
In this season we encourage one another to be generous to those who suffer, to give to strangers, and to care for all – especially those who have the least. Like the first Santa, St Nicholas did.
We invite all who celebrate the season to hold these different strands of a real Christmas together: anxiety and joy, suffering and compassion, Santa and Jesus.
It’s started something of a caption competition underneath the post but, as per usual not everyone’s happy with it. Check out the Facebook page to see what the religious zealots have to say.