Dan Rackham is a community worker at St. Philemon’s church in Liverpool, England who has come up with a unique way to engage others in his city. About 8 months ago he began creating weekly YouTube videos highlighting events in Liverpool and has built a following of diverse viewers. Every so often, he includes a video about his faith or about events hosted by his church. Over several months he has begun connecting with some of these viewers both through social media and in person, looking for ways to serve them and invite them to explore who Jesus is.
Recently, Dan saw an opportunity to connect with people’s hearts based on one of the most highly-anticipated moments of the year: the release of the John Lewis Christmas advert. John Lewis is a chain of upmarket department stores that operate throughout Great Britain. Since 2007 they have designed a Christmas marketing campaign which has become something of a phenomenon in the UK. Nearly everyone has seen the John Lewis advert, making it a timely and common point of reference.
John Lewis’s 2015 campaign, #ManOnTheMoon, tells the story of a little girl who uses her telescope to discover a lonely elderly man on the moon. She sends him a gift to let him know that he is loved.
When Dan saw it, he instantly saw a deeper meaning in it. “Like most people, I loved the advert,” he said, “But I’d love for people to look down the other end of the telescope this Christmas. When it comes to giving gifts, I believe it’s God who’s given us the ultimate gift, actually coming down to us. That’s what Christmas is all about.”
Dan created a masterful remake of the ad, called “The Baby from the Stars,” telling this story from another perspective. It quickly went viral, generating interest from the general public as well as from the media. In less than a month it has generated over 100K views and has been downloaded for use in over 300 churches and schools. He ends the video with the phrase, “Know that you’ve been loved this Christmas” and the text of John 3:16.
When Dan realized the attention the video was getting, he and some friends quickly set up an accompanying website, www.lovedthischristmas.com, and began using the hashtag #lovedthischristmas to promote the video. He added a link to the end of the video where people could continue the story to learn more about the message behind the ad. He also partnered with local publishers to make additional literature available for anyone who was interested.
“The real hope is that it makes people think and ask questions, and explore the Christian faith,” Dan says. “Of course, people might end up seeing the video at a church service, but social media crucially allows you the opportunity to engage with people who might never darken a church door.”
Next up? Dan says he’s starting to consider a Valentine’s Day gospel message.