“Believe.” That’s Macy’s one-word advertising campaign this holiday season. You’ve likely seen it plastered on buses and screaming across the top of full page newspaper ads. I’ve found it jarring because it feels either like a subliminal Cold War-era message or an emasculation of the word itself.
Yes, I know that Macy’s has a whole charitable giving program based on the campaign that benefits the Make-a-Wish Foundation. And that’s a good thing even if it’s an add-on to deflect any potential criticism from, ahem, the blogging public.
The whole notion of what to believe is left intentionally ambiguous. This month, the choices are wide open: Santa, Christ, general hearth and home goodness, the Christmas-Industrial Complex, yourself, that your credit card debt will magically disappear. It’s a clever ad campaign meant to encourage good feelings and prime the economic pump.
But as a Christian who celebrates the coming of the Christ child this month (yes, some of us still do) it grates. Maybe it’s because Christmas is not about belief in general but belief in particular.
The word itself derives from the Latin credo — from whence we derive the word creed. On Christmas Eve those who make it to church will recite the Nicene Creed, the primary Christian statement of faith. It begins “I believe in one God” or Credo in unum Deum in Latin. And we’ll go on to proclaim our belief in the Incarnation of Jesus by saying, “For us and our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
That’s the belief that I’m focused on this time of year — the belief that ultimately defines Christmas itself.
So, thank you Macy’s for encouraging us to “believe.” But we’ll take it from here.