Billboard Madness: Intro, Reflections & Reactions

December 20, 2009

Clay Nelson

Advent 4

Video available on YouTube


A funny thing happened as I began preparing this sermon earlier in the week. I thought I was going to talk about Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. I wanted to focus on this young teen who had found herself with child. While her faith was great that God was involved in this miracle of new life, her reaction to the news was to take off for the hills in haste--and for good reason. She was in danger of public censure, repudiation by Joseph and possibly even stoning.


Then the billboard went up. Suddenly I could fully identify with Mary. For a moment I thought of taking to the hills in haste myself. Stoning doesn’t appeal to me any more than it did for her. But Glynn and I are still here, still processing what has been an unprecedented week in our lives, the life of St Matthew’s, and perhaps even for Christmas as well.


Who would have thought our little bit of irreverent Kiwi humour would have gotten such a reaction. Let me give you a little taste of what it means to go viral in an internet age.


If you used the keywords St Matthew +billboard +Christmas this morning you will get 56,300 hit. That’s 5000 more than yesterday morning. Glynn and I have lost count of the number of interviews we have done for newspapers, radio, tv and online news sources and they haven’t stopped. From the time it went up until Saturday morning our website was visited by 20,322 people from six continents and 127 countries (101 visits have come from Italy. I wonder if one was the Pope?) and it isn’t slowing down much. Our podcast iGod has jumped to second in its category and 109 overall out of the thousands on the site. I have received over 600 emails and counting and I’m sure Glynn has received many more. Mine have run the gamut from abusive and harshly critical to gently remonstrative and pleasantly surprised to laudatory. I was relieved that there were more supportive ones than ones questioning my mother’s marital status when I was born. Then there have been the many phone calls and texts that Glynn, the entire staff team and I have had to field. But whether or not people appreciated our approach, one thing is certain, for a big part of the planet people have been discussing Christmas outside the frame of Santa and shopping and they know about St Matthew-in-the-City and progressive Christianity.


So Glynn and I have decided that we need to take some time this morning to reflect with you on the experience. Certainly we are not the only ones here this has impacted. We imagine that you have not been able to escape the fact that you worship here, so we will open this up to you as well to share your experiences and reflections.


So, I will hand off now to Glynn for his thoughts, I will share an experience or two of mine and then we will open it up to you.


So Glynn I know you haven’t been interviewed for maybe a whole 12 hours now, so I thought I’d try to keep you in your groove and ask you a few questions this morning.

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