I used to be marketing director for a small design company; my job was to come up with ways to get companies and their products noticed and thought of in the best light possible. This boiled down to making their services and products look more exciting, more leading edge, better value, more attractive, effective and competitive than the opposition. It’s all about using colour, lights, noise and impact.
We live in a world of noise – I’m not talking about juggernauts on the road outside our houses, or the noise created by extra runways in airports – I’m talking about the noise we make in order to look bigger, better, busier, more successful, richer, happier than we really are. If I read the marketing material written about Out of the Ashes, I often find myself taking a quick rein check, as I remind myself that this stuff was written by the PR department to make Kevin’s and my musical careers look bigger, better and more exciting than is probably the case.
And, of course, a quick glance at Facebook leaves us in no doubt that everyone else’s lives are busier, happier and more interesting than ours. Everyone else’s holidays are more exciting, their children are more popular, getting better exam results and learning more musical instruments than our own children, and everyone else will probably have a happier Christmas than ours will be, with more friends, more and better presents, and nicer food.
Which leads us to a look at the arrival of Jesus Christ. The biggest, most exciting, most impactful event in the history of mankind.
I can’t help imagining the marketing meeting in Heaven, in the run up to His birth. The marketing department will, of course, have laid on fresh coffee and pastries. Gadreel and Hadraniel, the two self appointed heads of marketing are seated around a table with God:-
Gadreel: ‘Lord, we’ve been looking at the marketing plan for Your Son arriving on earth. Can we run a few ideas past You?’
God: ‘It’s all pretty much planned, but what are your thoughts?’
Gadreel: ‘Well, we’ve got a bit of a flip chart presentation here, and some thoughts about events leading up to His arrival. Hadraniel, why don’t you show Him your ideas?’
Hadraniel: Yes, we wanted to start by taking a look at the teaser campaign. We’ve already got a lot of stuff that’s been said by the old prophets, but we thought maybe we could freshen that campaign up a bit. What do you think?’
God: ‘Yes I’m on that already. I’ve got a man called John the Baptist on the case.’
Gadreel (uncertain surprise, quickly closes the flip chart): ‘John the Baptist? Hairy chap? Lives in the desert and eats locusts?’
God: ‘That’s the one’.
Gadreel: He’s err, quite umm smelly isn’t he?
God: He’s exactly right for my purposes.
Embarrassed silence – and then:
Hadraniel: ‘OK, moving on from there. Now, we’re working on the premise that this really is the big event in all history, and therefore budget no object. Not worked up many ideas yet, but wanted to just test the waters with a few initial thoughts to run past you, just to err, as I said… test the waters. So we have some plans on light shows, a bit of pageantry, we thought maybe some angelic armies, choirs, comets, a couple of weather phenomena…’
God: ‘He’s going to be born in a stable.’
Gadreel (nervously): ‘Born? Err… Right, right, yeah. Great idea. Emperor travelling through with his entourage… no, actually I’m not really getting the ‘stable’ bit. We’re going to have to give a bit more thought to how we get the emperors wife into a stable to give birth.’
God: ‘Not an emperor actually.’
Hadraniel: ‘Oh right! Great! What… err… what did you have in mind?’
God: ‘A good man. Name of Joseph; and his fiancée Mary’.
Gadreel: ‘FIANCÉE?! You mean… not married yet? Who is this chap? Is he some king spreading it around a bit? There are some chaps of good blood who are a bit wild when they’re young, but…’
God: ‘No. He’s a carpenter from Nazareth – incidentally, you can keep the choir, I like the choir. They can sing to the shepherds on the hill’.
Hadraniel, (weakly, head in hands): ‘Shepherds?’
I could go on.
Throughout the birth, growing up, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ, He did the exact opposite of ‘bigging it up’ every single step of the way. God incarnate, who created all of Heaven and Earth – lived, died and rose again as Jesus – quiet, understated, gentle, with breathtaking humility and no attention whatsoever to a conventional marketing strategy.
For me, it’s perhaps one of the greatest marks of authenticity in the Bible – written by forty different people, over a period of 1500 years and using three original languages. Without the slightest nod to marketeers or advertising, it continues to be the number one, worldwide best seller, outstripping other books by such a long way that most lists don’t even bother to mention it, Christianity spread like wildfire from those first years after Christ’s death and continues to grow to this day in spite of oppression of one form or another in most parts of the world.
As I say, score: marketeers 0, Holy Spirit 10.
The thoughts behind our new single ‘So Silently’ from the album Fear, Secrets and Lies which was released on the 18th November 2016.