An ecumenical Christian nonprofit group in England has created a unique Advent advertising campaign. Starting Monday, and running through December 20, billboards and posters will show a mock-up of an ultrasound of baby Jesus, complete with halo. The words are simple: "He's on His way . . . Christmas starts with Christ."
ChurchAds.Net is made up of advertising executives from various Christian denominations, including Methodists, Baptists, United Reformed, and the Church of England. In addition to displaying the picture on billboards across England, radio commercials are scheduled to air on 200 stations. Ultimately, the group hopes to reach 40 million people.
The group's website explains the thinking behind the campaign: "In the 21st century, proud parents-to-be proudly announce the coming birth by showing friends and family the scan of the baby. Our new 'Baby Scan Jesus' poster uses this convention to place the birth of Christ in an ultra-contemporary context. . . . And theologically it speaks of both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ."
There's nothing to indicate that it was intended as a pro-life message (not that there would have been anything wrong with that). Nonetheless, the campaign is already drawing fire along those lines. Terry Sanderson, director of Britain's National Secular Society, is quoted in The Guardian: "If they are hoping to stop the secular drift away from Christmas as a Christian festival, they risk doing the opposite. . . . The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context. They should go back to angels and cribs."
If it accomplishes two goals at once, all the better as far as I'm concerned. It brings to my mind the wonderful passage in Luke when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, sees Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. In an instant, Elizabeth recognizes Mary as "the mother of my Lord," and the baby John recognizes Jesus (so my Bible notes indicate) by "leaping" in Elizabeth's womb.
"And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'" (Luke 1:41-43)