Copies of the Big Issue, sold across the north of England in the run-up to Christmas, will carry full-page adverts featuring a modern twist on a traditional nativity scene, with the message ‘Christmas Starts with Christ’.
The adverts are part of a nationwide advertising campaign which includes churches buying a poster for their local bus stop and a series of radio ads aimed at young people.
Mersey Christmas (made up of the Diocese of Liverpool, The Salvation Army, the Methodist Church, the Northwest Baptist Association and Together for the Harvest) has teamed up with five other dioceses to place the Big Issue ads which will be seen by 52,000 people in the north west of England, Yorkshire and the Humber.
Of these 31,200 are aged under 44, 16,000 of whom are between the ages of 15 and 34. Mersey Christmas is also funding radio ads which will be broadcast on Radio City, City Talk and Magic 1548 from 19th December up until Christmas Eve.
The picture used in the Big Issue adverts re-sets the nativity characters as modern professions dressed in high street fashions. Shepherds are cycle couriers and plasterers.
Wise men are successful entrepreneurs and their gifts are iconic "treasures" of modern culture: a Swarovski crystal perfume bottle, a Faberge egg and a replica Damian Hirst skull.
All are sharply dressed. But the traditional nativity arrangement is unchanged, with Jesus as its clear focus. And the message is compelling: "However you dress it up... Christmas Starts with Christ". It\'s the meeting of Christianity and high street consumerism, with Christ in the middle.
In the final few days before Christmas, millions of people will be losing themselves in shopping. Could there be a better time to expose them to this Christian message?
Recent research by Theos reveals that only 12 per cent of adults know the Christmas story in any detail – and the figure drops to just 7 per cent among 18-24 year olds. To keep Christmas focused on Christ, churches need to constantly tell the story of his birth in ways that engage positively with the public.
Find out more at http://www.merseychristmas.co.uk/ or www.ChurchAds.net