Now in just seven years, very much part of our Christmas tradition: the Christmas advert. Heralded from afar, critically examined and then widely shared – just like the Babe of Bethlehem himself. And the winner this year has to be the splendid centenary tribute to the Christmas truce, Sainsbury’s “Christmas is for sharing.” This 3 minute 20 seconds drama from the Great War, directed by Ringan Ledwidge, hits all the right notes. Light years beyond “That’s the wonder of good old Woolies” stereotype. The Guardian, of course, doesn’t like it. And there is a general unease with a supermarket chain cashing in on the slaughter of the trenches, so superbly evoked by the sea of poppies at the Tower. However, political covering fire is provided by the Royal British Legion. And to be fair to Sainsbury’s, they have had close links with this charity for over 20 years. What I didn’t realize is that, like me, they don’t start their Christmas campaign-up until after Armistice Day. Once you have reached for your tissues, (or should I say, Kleenex) you can watch the commercial here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWF2JBb1bvM&spfreload=10 But why? For the record, I hardly ever go to Sainsbury’s – apart from the time I need to park in the centre of Southport. So why are they investing £1million and their good name in this project? Very simply they want to establish their brand in my brain, along with the Queen’s Speech, carols by candelight and my family memories. They want my heart to lift as I walk past one of their stores. They want me to spend my money on their products. And this wonderful, poignant advert gets past all my defences. Advertising executive Leo Burnett observes: “Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief.” One of the distinctive teachings of Jesus was his emphasis on our inner life, what happens in our minds – or as the Bible prefers to say, our hearts. For example: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) We are each given the remarkable gift of imagination, the ability to create our own world within our own minds. It is both a huge resource for creativity – and for dishonouring our Creator. Within our minds we choose between love or lust. No wonder that the apostle Paul tells us to “capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We need to be vigilant to what goes into our minds – whether it be a beautifully crafted advert or some salacious gossip. For it is a dangerous world out there.
“Above all else, guard your heart” we read in Proverbs 4:23, “for everything you do flows from it.” You probably haven't noticed a news item in this morning’s BBC technology page, not sure why I have. It seems that Microsoft has only just patched a critical bug in its software that had existed for 19 years. No one, it seemed, noticed it was there, in plain sight, on every version of Windows since 1995. The IBM researcher who found it wrote: "The bug can be used by an attacker for drive-by attacks to reliably run code remotely and take over the user's machine." And so for all these years we have been using PC’s which could have easily been taken over without our knowing. They may have been for all we know – unless some strange debits appear on our bank statement. The parallel with the operating system of our minds is obvious. So Paul exhorts us as he writes to the Philippians. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (4:8). Finally, an item for my Christmas wish list. A 100g ‘Taste the Difference’ Belgian Milk Chocolate bar, as manufactured in Ypres. Obtainable from all Sainsbury’s stores.