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Top 10 Christmas Ads to Use in Youth Ministry

There’s a rich and long tradition of wonderful Christmas ads and this year has been no exception. Some are plain old tear jerkers, some are inspiring and some touch you more profoundly than a commercial ought to be any standard. After watching a particularly strong message yesterday, I came up with the idea to make a top 10 of the best Christmas commercials ever…and how you can use these in your youth ministry. So here we go!

christmas ads

1. Spanish Christmas Lottery: Justino

Bring tissues for this one. It’s the story of a night concierge in a factory for ‘dummies’ (mannequins) who brings joy to his coworkers and is rewarded in an unexpected way…

How could you use this story with teens?

  • What characteristics of Justino can teens discover in the video? What kind of person is Justino? What’s special about him?
  • Justino manages to bring joy to himself and to others, despite being alone and isolated in his job. How hard is this? How could teens make this practical in their own lives?
  • Justino’s coworkers haven’t forgotten about him. What people do teens know who are always in the background and who could use affirmation and encouragement?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

2. Unicef: Three Wise Men

I love this tongue-in-cheek Christmas vid from Unicef. It shows the three wise men shopping ‘Christmas’ presents for baby Jesus, and wel…just watch it, if you haven’t seen it before.

What I love about this ad, is that it uses a Biblical event (the three wise men) and turns it around to communicate a different message. How to use this with students?

  • If your students aren’t familiar with the Biblical events, share the story of the three wise men before showing it, otherwise they’ll miss the entire ‘joke’.
  • Why did the wise men bring gold, mirre, and incense to Jesus? What was the deeper meaning of these gifts?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? It seems to suggest Christmas is about bringing presents. Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?
  • How do the teens feel about buying or getting (expensive) Christmas presents when other kids around the world have no clean water, or food. Does it make them feel guilty or do they not want to think about this this time of year?

3. John Lewis: Gifts you Can’t Wait to Give

British department store John Lewis is a well known producer of tear jerker Christmas ads, but this is my favorite since it has such an unexpected twist at the end.

How to use this in youth ministry:

  • This ad shows a young boy counting down impatiently towards Christmas. What’s the usual reason kids can’t wait for Christmas? Why is this kid different?
  • Talk to teens about the joy of giving. Do they recognize the feeling of having a gift so awesome they couldn’t wait to give it? Was this how God felt when He sent His Son as a gift to us?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

4. Sainsbury: Christmas is for Sharing

Not everyone appreciated this ad from British supermarket chain Sainsbury, which was based on a true event in World War I. Some found it in poor taste, but personally I really appreciated it.

Now, if history isn’t your strong point: the ad shows the British and the German in their respective trenches in WWI, probably somewhere in Belgium or northern France. But on Christmas, the two armies declared an informal truce for one day and celebrated Christmas together. Sort of. You’ll probably need to explain a bit of the context before showing it to teens either. Plus, it’s not subtitled and there is some German in there, though the meaning can be deduced from the context.

How can you use this in youth ministry?

  • How did the ad make the teens feel? Had they ever heard of this historic event (find some historic facts to share perhaps)
  • Today, many wars are being fought. Is Christmas a good ‘reason’ for a truce, even temporary?
  • Christmas is often said to be about peace. What does this mean in the context of war? How did Christmas bring about peace?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

5. Edeka: Heimkommen

Edeka is a German supermarket chain and they’re known for making great Christmas ads. Last year they had an impressive symphony of cash registers, but this year they went all out emotional with an ad featuring an old man and his family. Or rather, his lack of family. It’s subtitled, so you’ll have no trouble understanding it.

So, the ad pictures an old man faking his own death to get his kids and grandkids to show up for Christmas. How could you use this in youth ministry?

  • Use the theme loneliness and tie in an act of service, for instance visiting a nursing home
  • Talk to teens about why family is so important on holidays. Why does it matter more than on other days? How do they feel about this? Does family feel more real or more fake on Christmas?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

6. John Lewis: The Bear and the Hare

One of the reasons I love these type of Christmas ads is because they tell a story. And this tale is all about true friendship…

Yup, it’s another John Lewis ad. There’s a reason the British actually look forward to the new John Lewis Christmas ad each year! What does this ad tell teens about Christmas?

  • What’s the core message of the ad? (‘give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget’) How did the hare make this a reality for the bear?
  • What can we do, what can the students do to give someone a ‘real’ Christmas this year?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

7. Apple: iPhone Christmas Commercial

Once again, this ad works because it has an unexpected twist at the end. I love it.

This is an awesome one to use in youth ministry:

  • How do you think his family felt that he was on his phone the whole time? How did they feel after seeing what he did?
  • Use this ad to talk about how teens use tech, also around the holidays. Studies show that teens use tech to feel connected with others and to share what they’re experiencing with friends. How could they balance this with being present for their family as well?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

8. Macy’s: The Wish Writer

While the British still have a leg up when it comes to Christmas vids, this Macy’s ad is awesome as well. It shows a brother and sister and a magic pen…

The morals here are so clear, it’s not hard to use this to start a conversation with teens:

  • When the girl tried to use the wish writer for herself and for presents, it didn’t work. Why was that you think?
  • What did she do for her brother? How did it make her feel to give a gift to someone else?
  • Is this how God feels when he gives us ‘presents’? And when He gave us His Son?
  • What is the ad really about? (Make a Wish foundation). Do the teens know this foundation and what it does? How do they feel about it?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

9. Albert Heijn: Ben’s Christmas

I had to include this ad from Dutch grocery store chain Albert Heijn, since it will really appeal to young teens. It shows Ben, who is too old for the kids’ table, but isn’t included with the grownups either. It’s virtually without dialogue, so you’ll have no problem understanding it (the tagline at the end is: Albert Heijn. Everything for an unforgettable Christmas).

Like I said, this story will appeal especially to middle schoolers who undoubtedly recognize the feeling:

  • Why is Ben said despite it being Christmas? When does that change?
  • Do you recognize this feeling of being too big for one thing but too small for another? Have you ever been delegated to the ‘kids’ table’ when you really felt like an adult? How did that make you feel?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

10. Canadian Tire: Runway

This one made me tear up when I fist saw it. A little boy who has just moved and who is so scared Santa won’t know where to find him…

It reminded me of our son Elian when we just moved from Germany to the US in November 2013. He had that very same fear, so we made Christmas extra special for him…

To talk about with teens:

  • What was the boy deeply afraid of? Have you ever felt like that, like someone might forget you or pass you over? How did that make you feel?
  • What did his dad do to make him feel better? How do you feel about that? Has someone ever gone to such lengths to take away your (unfounded) fears? How did that make you feel?
  • What are you most afraid of right now? What could God do to take that fear away?
  • What does this ad show about what Christmas is really about? Do the teens agree with this or not? How is Jesus present in the (message of) the video?

Which one is your absolute favorite? Any ads you think I should have included?

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