I hope that you have extra large, fully absorbent hankies– because the John Lewis Christmas advertisement is now showing on a small screen near you.
The store’s seasonal ad is fast becoming an institution and it tells us that it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas on our high street. Anyway, if you’re ready for a breathless, raspy cover of an old Oasis hit and something cute involving children, here it is:
From what I can gather, it’s about a little girl who spies on an alien disguised as an old man living on the moon, using an implausibly powerful telescope that her parents bought her from John Lewis. The girl tries to reach out to him, eventually succeeding with magic, self-targeting delivery balloons (presumably also from John Lewis, unless that’s Amazon using drones in outerspace that bring the alien/old man a telescope of his own). Cue tears and shopping sprees.
It is commendable that the campaign aims to raise money for Age UK, as loneliness among elderly people is a terrible thing for sure. But I am left wondering whether a psychological association with the season of goodwill actually delivers a Christmas with any kind of real meaning.
Ads and TV programmes that feature celebrity chefs may want our noses pressed firmly against the screen to get us to ooh and believe that we can have an impossibly perfect time, but I, for one, am getting just a little bit tired of it.
Recently I heard how St Mary’s Church in central London got its Christmas tree up super early. A children’s choir were heard singing in perfect harmony while a pile of presents were strategically placed under its branches. However, this was no school carol service, but the Toy Industry’s trade launch of this season’s twelve must-have presents.
The UK's toy market is now worth over £3bn with an average of £300 spent annually on toys for each child up to the age of 11, and globally in 2015 sales are expected to reach £58bn - so a lot is at stake.
But what if Christmas does not come in a van, as thought by poor Margo in The Good Life? What if it wasn’t left to a retailer’s ‘sadvertising’ or a celebrity chef’s recipes to give our day shape and meaning?
What if, instead, it arrived in the ordinary and the imperfect family experience? What if it included all those flaws and rough edges that we are meant to hide away?
The Bible gives the real reason for the season and provides us with the story of how God sends his only son, Jesus into the world to give us hope through his own life and death.
Born to poor parents in a smelly, unsanitary animal stable, Jesus’ arrival reminds us that the perfect Christmas has nothing to do with what we have, but actually in what we don’t have. The angels say to the terrified shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (The Bible)
Joy is different to happiness. It’s not about a state of mind, but a deep contentment, whether life is good, bad or indifferent. It is what makes the joy that Jesus offers us so powerful and why he is often referred to as 'a light in the darkness'.
This Christmas Eve you are warmly invited to come with your family to GLOW at the Delphi Centre, Sudbury. It’s a one-hour service of singing carols by glowsticks and hearing the Christmas story through readings, drama and media. It’s a lot of fun. The service starts at 6.30pm, but why not arrive early from 6pm to enjoy some mulled wine and seasonal treats? And, relax, you don’t have to be religious. Just come as you are.