Celebrated British Department Store Chain “John Lewis” has released its annual Christmas TV advertisement; and it bracingly affirms: even in our barbarian age, there survives an undeniable capacity for beauty. Significantly, this gorgeous media spot, centering around a little boy and his penguin pal, unfolds over Tom Odell’s cover of “Real Love”– a luminous musical composition originally written in 1977 by John Lennon. Lennon, of course, was the same talented but troubled ex-Beatle who, anomalously, disgorged 1971’s “Imagine”– one of the foulest, anti-Christian, anti-Western screeds ever set to sweet music. “Real Love”, however – and this enchanting commercial attached to it — traffick in none of that.
I don’t know this for fact, but from what I’d gather about John Lewis, Inc., I suspect the folks helming that corporation generally lean left in their lifestyle and political inclinations (?). I’d further guess the same true of those artsy types who’re behind this lovely seasonal offering (?). Yet, nowhere within it is there even a smidgen of the prickly “political correctness”, snotty transgressivism or trendy impieties which tyrannize today’s culture.
Although the narrative touches movingly on themes of romantic love — albeit chiefly through a smitten Anarctic bird — there’s nary a hint of sexual double entendre. Couples appear at different points — at least two of them, presumably, old-fashioned married couples (one older pair cuddles on a wintry bench, another are the affluent parents to that adorable kid). And yes, shockingly, of the doting duos represented all are of the man-woman variety.
Same-sex lovers? Nowhere in sight.
How’d that “oversight” scamper past the 21st-Century’s “tolerance” Guardians?
Neither are there glimpses of the production’s main figure — the aforementioned lad — devilishly raising a middle finger to his mum and dad, or trying to snatch a peek up a school girl’s dress, or joining a throng of his chums to cheer on an Obama speech or march against “climate change”.
No, he’s just a bright-eyed little fellow embedded in a charming fairy-tale of a story. Beaming with an innocence that is both thrilling and heartbreaking, he’s happily enjoying life with his best black-and-white-plumed friend — and when he ultimately and selflessly comes to recognize his flightless buddy needs something beyond his human company, he joyfully does what he can to help provide it.
My wife has watched it with me twice — and cried at both viewings. I’ve additionally sat through it a time or two by myself. Weather or not I shed a tear, I’m not saying.
The sketch’s effervescent child — playing, laughing, gathering with friends and family, sacrificially giving — poses such jarring contrast to the darkness and ugliness idolized unrelentingly in our era, that this most recent John Lewis promotion strikes an anachronistic note; refreshingly so. No half-decayed zombies turn up, no serial-killer anti-heroes hunt down and slay other bad guys. There’s no fixation on carnage in Ferguson, MO or ISIS miscreants slaying babies and ravishing helpless women.
Instead, the audience is served two minutes of undisguised delightfulness and purity and wonder.
Then again, Christmas seems to have that effect in manifold ways every year, doesn’t it. The holiday memorializes, remember, the most glorious love story of the ages; the archetypal “Real Love”: a Creator whose yearning for unbroken relationship with His wayward creation compels Him to dispatch His Son to live as a man and, finally, to die as one. The Savior arrives a helpless and unsullied infant; He winds up lawlessly murdered by those He’s determined to rescue. Having recognized a desperate dilemma among those for whom He deeply cared, the God-Man unselfishly becomes the solution – sort of like the little chap in the final frames of this department store advertisement.
It’s an account so sublime it’s nearly corny — except that the Old Testament writings foreshadowed it for thousands of years, the prophets foretold it for generations, it actually came to pass two millenia ago.
The pulses of the Christmas season which endure, those which mean the most, hearken in some sense back to those realities.
And if we can catch a whiff of them courtesy of a John Lewis TV spot, showcasing an unexpected John Lennon melody? That’s another Christmastime surprise! Another excuse to be merry!
Image: Screen shot courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iccscUFY860