Scottish Churches Join National Campaign on the Real Meaning of Christmas

Dec 12, 2002 01:44 PM EST

LONDON - One of the three kings looks in horror at the price tag left on his gift of gold to the infant Jesus above the catchline, "Losing the plot? Give yourself a break at church this Christmas."

Church leaders are sponsoring a countrywide advertising campaign in what they say is a lighthearted bid to alert people to the real meaning of the Christian festival.

Announcing his church's participation Tuesday, the Most Rev. Bruce Cameron, Primus — or head — of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said the campaign is not about ending the commercialization of Christmas, but emphasizing that lavish expenditure is not what Christmas is all about.

"Shopping for presents and parties can be great fun. I enjoy that aspect of Christmas myself. What we're trying to do is to restore the balance and put the Christmas message back into our celebrations," he said.

"We are saying that the real gifts of Christmas are love and peace, which are both priceless. You can't buy them in a store. But they are the gifts that I'd like to give to the children of Baghdad and Jerusalem this Christmas."

Posters showing Christmas scenes with a twist are going up on hoardings around the country. There will also be related advertizing spots on radio and TV.

The Rev. Tony Kinch, treasurer of the Churches Advertising Network, which devised the ads, said the campaign had cost around 12,000 pounds (US$19,000), "but if most people hadn't given their time free, it would have been nearer 150,000, pounds (US$240,000)."

Although the Churches Advertizing Network is an independent company, it is supported by a wide range of churches.

In one of the adverts, a woman recites an endless list of relatives for whom she must buy presents; in another, young people are shown cooped up with ancient relatives, and in a third, a mechanical toy intones, "I am the Death Lord. See me fire my photon ray." A fourth has terrible radio jingles for after Christmas sales and a fifth features a crisis over cooking the lunch.

Each advises that going to church would be a break from "losing the plot".

By Sue Leeman, Associated Press writer