I am not usually grumpy, right? I am not usually critical, right? Well, I just had to write about Christmas and what our culture does with it.
I would love to be a “fly on the wall” of advertising agencies when they discuss using sacred Christmas carols to promote their products. There is always a question of taste, propriety and acceptability. Will our commercial offend anyone?
Well, my personal opinion is that using sacred Christian music to sell products is usually skating over the line of good taste and sensibility. I will give you three examples here. Please write to me if you see more.
Here are the three starting with the least offensive. Pampers diapers. In this commercial we see the sweetest babies sleeping peacefully on sheets and blankets way better than anything I would ever buy. All the while “Silent Night, Holy Night” plays. Now I have to admit, this commercial tugs at the heart strings.
However, part of the Christmas story is that there was no place for Jesus. He ended up in the feeding trough of the animals, with only scratchy straw for bedding. And I think I can say with certainty that Mary did not have Pampers to swaddle baby Jesus. In fact we know she had “swaddling cloths,” which are rags with which common people “swaddled” their babies.
This one is least offensive because if watching it you don’t think it is sweet, we’ll just have to call you the Grinch. And you know what they say about the Grinch! “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch!”
Moving up the offensive scale, we come to the Honda commercial. This commercial depicts various Honda models driving through different backgrounds. The music plays, “Joy to the World.” I had a Honda once. The speaker for the sound system never worked right. It was the only car I ever owned that had chronic air conditioner problems. Several little screws and bolts showed up on the floor from time to time from whence I know not. It was a decent car, but it did not bring Joy to the World, and the best Honda made sooner or later rusts away and becomes scrap metal.
Jesus brings Joy to the World. Sorry Honda. You make some great products, your outboard motors are among the best, your lawn mowers are among the most highly rated, and your motorcycles have always been first class. But Jesus brings Joy to the World, not things propelled by internal combustion engines no matter how well made.
The worst commercial using sacred music comes from several years ago. Again, the music is Joy to the World. Do you know what product is being advertised? Underwear. Underwear! Fruit of the Loom. It would be unseemly for me to comment on the quality of Fruit of the Loom in a church essay, but I wonder how appropriate it is to use beloved Christmas music, sacred in character, to advertise underwear!
I hope you don’t mind indulging me to be a curmudgeon. I don’t do it often. But watch for these commercials using sacred music this season. And as you watch them picture to yourself sincere, hardworking, honest men and women around a conference table discussing whether or not it is crossing a line to use Christmas carols to sell their products. (Read my last comment after I sign off)
I can think of better ways to honor the birth of the world’s savior.
Yours in Honoring the Birth of Christ,
A final thought. It does please me that even though these commercials are questionable in taste, the sacred music they are misusing is well known enough that they will play it sell their products! May it always be so. “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen”!
Shall we pray? Lord God help us never to reduce your love in Christmas to vacuous things. Help us to keep the sacred separate from entanglement in the well-meaning but impotent derivatives of our culture. Keep Christmas pure in our hearts, we pray, and flood the world with the good news that Christ the Savior is born. Amen.