December 13, 2010

...a light for the gentiles...

I came across a wonderful evangelistic advertising tool recently while driving home one evening.

One of the churches in my local area has decked the entire front of their building (which opportunistically, also happens to sit on a corner directly adjacent to a major roundabout) with colored Christmas lights and a bright neon nativity scene. Since that night I’ve often traveled down that street & literally seen cars drive several times around the roundabout just to look at the beautiful display.

I have to say the church looks absolutely spectacular as it lights up our little corner of the world!

I don’t know about your suburb, but where I live local families enjoy nothing better at Christmas time than a pre-bed time twilight drive or stroll with their children, to view the many wonderful, humorous, and sometimes simply crazy, Christmas light displays arrayed around the local neighborhood.

In my suburb, there’s one particular street that everyone goes out of the way to visit. Every Christmas, each of the houses in this tiny cu-de-sac fiercely compete to outdo each other to win our local ‘people’s favourite’ award for best and most elaborately dressed Christmas display’. Cars queue sometimes up to 40 minutes at a time just to get a peek.

So I think that little local church is on to something here. And it really got me thinking, why aren’t all churches capitalizing on this great advertising and evangelistic opportunity? After all, what more could we want than, as our local families bring children to see the pre-Christmas light display outside our church they also can't miss our notice board advertising the upcoming Christmas services! 
Brilliant I say!

Or, we could go one step further and leaflet the local neighborhood advertising that the church will hold a ‘special light display at a particular time each evening.

Or, for the extremely mission minded, energetic and theatrical amongst us, why not go all out and advertise that there’ll also be a short dramatic presentation of the nativity story each evening. 

At this event we could take the opportunity to hand out a simple hand made tree decoration for each family inscribed with a simple gospel verse, as well as a postcard sized leaflet inviting them to come to our special Christmas services.

As you can see, the pre-Christmas possibilities and opportunities are endless!

So, why not get creative this Christmas and take every opportunity to declare to your own little patch of Sydney, that the true light that gives light to every man” has come into the world! (Jn 1:9)


Sue said...

I totally agree, Sarie, its our party and we are bowing out of the celebrations!

Craig said...

Good idea Which church? I wonder if they'd lend me their nativity for, say, the week before Christmas?!

H. said...

Great ideas.
Even reading the Narrative of Jesus birth would be enough.
Beautiful pictures.

Kara Martin said...

I think you are talking about my church here :) We started small with the lights display, but are getting bigger each year. All it took was one incredibly enthusiastic family in the church to get it started. We also use the nativity scene in Christmas lights as our logo on postcards and in ads to advertise our Christmas services. We have a growing presence and awareness in the community as a result of a very simple activity; and it is a healthy antidote to the majority of Christmas lights which fail to point to the real reason for the season.

Ernest Burgess said...

I may be wrong and it maybe myth but as I understand it it was Martin Luther who first put lights on the Christmas tree to represent Christians as lights to the world and the light that came into the world.

Narelle said...

Out of interest : From
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Robert D. said...

If you want to see the Christmas lights as an evangelistic tool gone wild, then head to the Mormon Temple at Carlingford. By day it is a life-size (maybe larger than life) nativity scene. By night it is just a blaze of colour everywhere.

Shane Rogerson said...

its a great idea and seems effective at attracting people to the property of the church - a sure hit if your local community doesn't even know you exist - and hopefully that might lead to them seeing our 'borrowed' light of Christ and the light of the gospel.
I had two other thoughts though.
1. what do you do in a locality where the nativity in a sense highlights a stereotype of churchiness and religion that you are trying to break
2. with the green, energy efficient revolution, does a mass of lights and energy also say something else ( that feels like a scrooge comment but I think it is a burning issue in the green and pink seats)

Sarie King said...

Hi Shane,

thanks so much for your comments, very helpful!
I do think that one of the problems we face is that established churches tend to just 'blend into the local landscape' after a while & locals stop paying attention to them, even the signs they post from time to time.This idea suddenly draws attention to our buildings afresh & unavoidably (both to locals, newcomers to the area & passers by).

Like you, I think we do need to make sure that our churches demonstrate a concern for our environment, and that we set a good example and public witness by that valid concern. I understand that the LED lights are very environmentally friendly using up to 98% less energy. ( I would also imagine that churches would only have them on for a set period in the evenings.

With the nativity scene, I think there are ways we can start to use creative media to tell the story but using completely new mediums to do it & break the blunt 'stereotypes' you mentioned. This one by Ignite Media called 'A Social Network Christmas' to tell the Christmas story is a great example of something completely creative ( I could envisage throwing that up on a big screen each night after a light display would be a novel presentation without the 'religiosity'.

Sarie King said...

ps. A friend today alerted me to this display by Dubbo Presbyterian.
It's a promo for their upcoming 'light display' but the other You Tube links are there to view...(

Stephen said...

So simple yet so effective, perhaps the Anglican Synod should send out a communique to all of its churches in NSW and direct them to put up something -all the parishioners could contribute to it.

Douglas said...

Canterbury Cathedral had a beautiful nativity scene outside near the West Door when I was there a couple of years ago. I assume it is a yearly offering. Maybe something for the Dean to consider, on George Street.

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