A couple of Christmas videos have just been doing the rounds on Facebook, cashing in on the spread of social media and connectivity. A friend was wondering which one he should use at his church this Christmas. Here are a few reflections.
‘The Digital Story of the Nativity’ is by Excentric. This film is fast, engaging, and amusing. Its tone is upbeat and goofy and it doesn’t take its content too seriously. The music is knowingly kitschy and sets a silly mood. The film accurately reflects the ways in which we use and think about social media, and it’s more about the world of social media than it is about Christmas. It’s also riffing on the Christmas of popular imagination rather than the Christmas of biblical accounts, which gives it a very broad appeal.
‘A Social Network Christmas’ is by Igniter Media. This film is highly content-driven. It’s designed to communicate the story of Christmas using social media as a hook, and it delivers its message quite didactically. At the same time, it assumes quite a detailed knowledge of the nativity accounts, such as the place of Elizabeth and Zechariah. We probably find this film appealing if we recognise that it’s trying to be faithful to the Christmas story. The reflective backing music sets a solemn tone.
I’m somewhat critical of ‘A Social Network Christmas’. I’d say it’s slavishly ‘sticking to the facts’ rather than effectively retelling the story for a new generation. It’s clearly trying to adopt a reverent tone but I find it overtly earnest and sombre. It’s also packed with Christianese — “We’re praying for you” and all that. In short, it feels like ‘A Social Network Christmas’ was made by Christians, for Christians. To put it more cynically, it could be evidence that Christians might have had their funny bones removed, and struggle to create things for anyone but the insiders.
Each film has its limitations, but ‘Digital Story’ strikes me as the more useful of the two. If you’re looking for a video for in-house use with long-time Christians, then ‘A Social Network Christmas’ will do the job. If you’re looking for a video to show with visitors and outsiders present, then ‘Digital Story’ is a better fit. Harnessing the popular imagination is not an easy thing to do, but this film provides an open door.
There’s a whole lot of other videos out there, too. Communicate Jesus has been posting some good selections, like this, and here’s a great one from New Zealand. Let me know what you reckon!
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.