Advent, Su Wk4, Yr C
Do you ever find yourself watching the adverts, rather than the TV program itself? Well I do, and one of my memorable TV highlights was on channel four, a few years back, with a countdown of the 100 most watched adverts. There’s so much work goes into them! One advert, which is always a pleasure to see, is the classic 1990s Coca Cola Truck advert for Christmas. I hope you know the one I mean; with the catchy little tune “holidays are coming, holidays are coming.”
The Visitation, which we hear about in the Gospel today, is a little like this Coke advert. Can we compare the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and the subsequent birth of our Saviour, with one of the, seemingly, most ‘non-religious’ brands in the world? Well, yes, we can.
Business Week ranks the Coca Cola brand as the most valuable in the world, at an estimated $67 billion dollars. Surely, if it were even possible to value, in monetary terms, the birth of Our Saviour and the subsequent development and spread of Christianity, we would put it beyond price.
When you visit the Holy Land you come to realise that the journey Mary made to visit her cousin Elizabeth is undertaken over several days and through dangerous, dark and hilly countryside. Similarly, the Coca Cola truck advert begins with a small light journeying, which grows very quickly and spreads its light to all that it passes: First to light up are three stars atop a ‘Christmas’ tree. When we think of Mary, carrying Our Lord in her womb, we might wonder about all those whom she met on her way and their reaction to her presence, and indeed the presence of Jesus. We have only to think about Elizabeth and her reaction to Mary’s visit. We read that upon hearing Mary’s greeting Elizabeth’s own child leaps in the womb and Elizabeth cries out “of all women you are the most blessed.”
Like the advert we don’t know exactly what it is that’s coming but the rising music, like an anthem, alerts us to something worth watching and looking out for. The lyrics even tell us: “watch out, look around.” Our first reading from Micah similarly foretells of something great yet to come. We now know it is the foretelling of the coming of Christ from out of the least of the tribes of Israel, from Bethlehem.
After enjoying a few seconds of wonder at the spectacularly brightly lit trucks which are bringing the Coca Cola to the town, no doubt hotly anticipated, we see two people walking in darkness. It’s cold and there is snow on the ground. Through the dark trees we see the highly coloured trucks making their relentless journey to bring a bright and wonderful future. The people are then seen to be running in the same direction in which the delivery trucks are going, as though they want to be either there when the trucks arrive, or perhaps they’re running to bring the Good News to the others; just as we, in turn, can run to Our Lady to see the Good News, her Son, Jesus. St Louis Marie de Montfort talks of making a total consecration through Mary to Jesus. God works through others. Notice that John the Baptist, in Elizabeth’s womb, leaps at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Through his mother and her cousin, Mary, the Baptist is brought into the presence of Jesus.
Our two people in the woods are soon revealed by the bright and colourful lights of the trucks to be children who look on now in wonder and anticipation. Does Jesus not tell us that unless we become like little children we will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Having now been overtaken by the delivery trucks the scene soon moves into the small town as houses are lit, a huge bridge is alight and the whole of nature is transformed by the coming of the promised One and a great scene emerges as a car comes to a halt to let the light through. The reaction, of what we will soon see to be a father and his son, is for the man to put his arm around his child in comfort and joy. An intense moment of private yet shared joy. This is, of course, Mary’s response. She sets out immediately and quickly to visit Elizabeth upon Gabriel’s announcement. She wishes to share her joy.
The advert ends with the anthem like music hitting it’s crescendo and the now famous tagline “holidays are coming” as a smiling Santa Claus drinks his Coca Cola, smiles and offers it up as though he were saying cheers! The letter to the Hebrews tells us that Christ said, on coming into the world ... “God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.” Clearly, the advertises who developed the delivery truck advert for Coca Cola sought for us, the viewers, to be so inspired that we too might drink their brand, we might obey their will, we might even, rush out to visit our friends and relations and share the Good News. Here the analogy falls down.
This particular advert, whilst one of my favourites, failed to even make it onto the top 100 most watched TV adverts. Following the visitation, on the other hand, we find ourselves amongst the estimated 2.2 billion Christians in the world now awaiting the coming of Christ.
Next time you watch this advert sing not ‘holidays are coming’ but “Jesus Christ is coming, Jesus Christ is coming: ‘tis the season to be jolly, Jesus Christ is coming, Jesus Christ is coming.”