Each year the Churches Advertising Network, or CAN, releases an Xmas poster. Past years have been particularly cheesy, like the Baby Jesus dressed up in a Santa suit. This year's is gorgeous, in sedate blues illuminated with gilt halos for the Holy Family. The manger is a bus shelter, which is today's logical equivalent of a manger.
This ad places the birth of Jesus in the environment written of in the Bible - in teeming poverty. The image is not sentimental, but humbling of God, recalling Joan Osborne's lyrics, "What if God was one of us? Just a stranger on the bus?"
CAN describes the poster.
The painting is by Royal Academy Gold medal winner, Andrew Gadd. The oil painting is on canvas and depicts the holy family, with halos, in a dark bus shelter. The shepherds and wise men are replaced with fellow passengers waiting for a bus. Some are watching the nativity intently; others appear oblivious and are checking the bus timetable and flagging down a bus.If only this was what Christianity was about. Jesus would not recognize his image today, and we would not - do not - recognize him.
Francis Goodwin, the Chair of CAN, says: "We are very used to the Renaissance image of the Nativity. But what would it look like if it happened today? Where would it take place? We want to challenge people to make them reassess what the birth of Jesus means to them. By using a powerful and contemporary piece of art, from a world renowned painter, we can create an enduring image for our own times."