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17 December 2013

Christmas starts with?

Christmas starts with?

The biggest outdoor religious Christmas advert was unveiled yesterday. Depicting a simple payday loan cheque and the words 'Does Christmas have to start with a payday loan?  No!  Christmas Starts with Christ', the ad stands 40 feet high and the length of three buses (106 feet long).

The Bishop of Manchester unveiled the huge billboard as part of the Christmas Starts with Christ poster campaign and it is fixed to scaffolding on the side of St Ann's church in the heart of the city's shopping and commercial centre. Millions of people are expected to see it and hundreds of other sites across the UK will carry the posters.

The Rt Rev David Walker said: "It is important that the true message of Christmas is not forgotten. We are asking people to pause and to remember that Christmas does not start with high interest loans or Christmas specials on TV. Christmas Starts with Christ. We encourage people to find out more about the Christmas story at a local church."

The Money Advice Service Christmas spending survey this year found that 18 million people say they are worried about how they will afford Christmas this year. Meanwhile 1.2 million say they will ask for loans from pay day lenders to fund their Christmas festivities.

The Christmas Starts with Christ campaign is trying to reverse this trend and communicate that: “The essence of Christmas isn’t about spending on gifts and all the seasonal trimmings, but is about receiving God’s gift of redemptive love wrapped up in Jesus. A gift given freely and meant to be shared the same way: because Christmas Starts with Christ.”

Some of the UK's leading Christian groups, including the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and Bible Society, are supporting the Christmas Starts with Christ campaign because they believe Christmas is worth saving. The campaign aims to help churches make Jesus and the amazing story of his birth, the focus of the nation's favourite time of year.

Previous Church Ads campaigns include the Bus shelter nativity in 2009, a Baby scan of Jesus in 2010 and the God Baby posters in 2012.

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "I'm excited by this campaign, which really seeks to show that the Church is good news for the nation in every season; not least of all at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our saviour. The world needs to know that's why we do what we do." 

Francis Goodwin, a key figure behind the Christmas Starts with Christ campaign, said: “With 51 per cent of people now saying that the birth of Jesus is irrelevant to their Christmas, a tipping point has been reached.  Christmas is being lost to secularism and the trend is for this to get worse. So we asked some of the top advertising people in the business to help us challenge people and remind us all what Christmas is really about. The Christmas Starts with Christ Campaign does just that.”

Since 1 December, when Advent began, the website, posters, radio ads and church resources have been available. Resources include nativity scripts, ideas, readings and reflections. Each day of the month has seen a different Christian leader contribute a post to the Christmas Starts blog which will continue over the festive season.