Since 2009, the Christmas Starts with Christ campaign has been striving to keep Christmas focussed on the birth of Jesus Christ. In that time, more than 5,000 churches have participated in the campaign, downloading and using free materials from the website.
It’s a tough battle. But one we must continue to fight. Strong cultural and secular forces are at work. More than 50% of people say that the birth of Jesus is ‘irrelevant’ to their Christmas.
But this is not the only disconnect that is happening. Many people are failing to associate the cute and cuddly baby Jesus born at Christmas with the scourged and bloodied Christ crucified at Easter.
This extent of this was revealed by research carried out for the Talking Jesus project which revealed that 40% of people do not realise that Jesus was a real person who actually lived.
Nativities that focus entirely on the birth of Jesus may actually have sanitised the fact that this baby was born to die. For us. The full story begins with a manger and a birth, and ends with the cross and a resurrection.
We need to help people put the whole story together by connecting the baby Jesus with the crucified and resurrected Christ. For without Christmas there can be no Easter; and without Easter there is no point in Christmas.
The two festivals need to be reconnected in the public consciousness, with Jesus Christ central to both.
So, this year’s ad, ‘The Passion of the Christmas’, features a stark, even shocking, image of the scourged Christ carrying not a cross but a Christmas tree, with the simple message: Remember why.
Our prayer is that churches and Christians will display and share this image, available here free of charge and then use the opportunity it will create to talk with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours about the vital connection between Christmas and Easter and the huge message of hope that Jesus Christ brings to the world.
Our hope is that millions of people, even those who have little or no bible knowledge, will be caused by this image to stop, think and ask themselves what it is saying and what Christmas is really all about.