And so it begins: “The Reason for the Season.”The bumper stickers and fridge magnets are flooding my mail box and being slapped into my hands kindly by ushers. Church signs from all denominations proclaim: “Jesus is the Reason for the Season!”The phrase has become ubiquitous.
But for me, it’s like nails-on-chalkboard. Indeed, he is the reason. Though we should probably draw our camera back for the wider view on the reason: God’s love (for he so loved the world … well, you know the rest). It is not the accuracy of the slogan that makes me cringe (because it is accurate), but rather, because it’s fluff. It is the religious equivalent to sappy pop music.
“Let’s keep Christ in Christmas!”
“Jesus: the gift that keeps on giving!”
Given the magnitude of Christ’s birth, are these slogans the best we can do?
A slogan, or tagline, is the essence of why a brand exists, the promise of what it will deliver. “Snapple: Made from the best stuff on earth”; “L’Oreal: Because I’m worth it”; “FedEx: When it absolutely positively has to be there on time.” Yes, I understand those — good, healthy drinks; luxury that I deserve; fast and on time. I want that stuff. If the tagline is really good than I just might even say, “Yes, I need that stuff!”
Do you think we get that same response, any response from “Reason for the Season”? Doesn’t Christmas offer a greater promise than FedEx?
I can make the case for Christianity needing some good branding (or actually rebranding). Irealize marketing Christianity is our shared responsibility — I believe it’s called evangelism. I also recognize the impact of a few well-chosen words (e.g. “Jesus wept”). Unfortunately, we have yet to find those few, powerful words to create a tagline worthy of Christmas, a tagline that will connect “consumers” with the promise of Christmas.
This is not to say we shouldn’t try.
Developing a good tagline is both an art and a science. Organizations spend a great deal of money and time creating a phrase that will truly capture its brand — the reason it exists.
So before we stock up on the magnets, can we ask ourselves what we’re really trying to accomplish with them? Are we trying to remind ourselves just who is at the center of Christmas? I’m pretty sure we already know. Are we trying to share this knowledge with others? Again, pretty sure that most people, regardless of faith, understand that Christmas is connected to Christ. If our goal is to convince people that Christmas is not a secular holiday, we’re going to need a lot more than a few magnets.
Regardless of its original intended purpose, the slogan “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” seems to beg the question, “So What?” Does it matter if everyone who reads your bumper-magnet forever will be able to say, “Yep, Jesus is the reason … ”? Yes, Jesus was a man. Yes, there’s a big holiday to celebrate his birth. So what?
We know that the full meaning of Christmas can never be reduced to one or two sentences. But in our smart-tech, short-text world, one or two sentences may be all we have. But it also might be all we need.
Here’s an idea: Let’s lead with the good stuff. Let’s answer the big “So what?” question with something like this: “The Christmas season heralds the coming of our Savior-King! The Savior-King!” Now that’s a reason for a holiday. Let’s lead with saving grace, abounding love, the gift of hope. Let’s give people a reason to say: “Yes, I want that; I need that!”
As much as I believe we need a new phrase (and I so do), I don’t believe it is up to one person, nor especially one card company, to write this message. I believe it’s up to us, the community of believers, with our shared faith, passion, and creativity, to work together and craft a tagline that truly embodies the meaning of Christmas. A line (or two) that will touch the hearts of the unbeliever, the uncaring, even those who have been hurt by the church, so that they may say, “Yes, I believe in that miraculous birth. Yes, I need to bow to that loving king.”
Let’s give it a shot. Use the new mountaintop called social media to shout your message. Post, like, share, tweet, blog, wiki, pin, and start the process. Tell your friends what the birth of Christ means to you, in one sentence, two at most. Remember it’s only a start. Invite them into the process. Ask them to tweak, refine, edit, polish, and then pass it on to others (don’t argue your point, delete if others are irreverent). Keep it going, your circles continually expanding outward.
We may not generate new magnets. But we will evangelize.
A note on process: So that we can attempt to track where this is headed, please put #greatergift either before or after a post or text and so on. This will give us the opportunity to see how far we can go this year in sharing our belief in the birth of Christ Jesus. Feel free to attach this document or make reference to it so others know what you’re trying to accomplish.
Gerardine Luongo Ranft is a Catholic freelance writer who also works in the field of international development.
Photo: Invisible Studio/Shutterstock