Christmas in all its joyous celebrations seems to walk an awkward line between secular, commercial activities at their frenzied peak and the religious meaning of the Advent season.
There is a minor echo of this tension in credit union history. As the decade of the 1950’s evolved there was increasing friction between two priorities. One group wanted to promote the business potential of the cooperative system versus the expansion minded pioneers whose primary intent was forming more credit unions.
Today these differing views might be categorized by those who focus on purpose as the driving force, versus those who belief that growth through acquisitions of their peers and bank purchases are the way to secure the future.
How One Company Combines the Season’s Messages
Occasionally a firm will try to unite the business and religious aspects of this special season. The UK grocery chain, Sainsbury, has created a unique “commercial” each Christmas for over a decade. Each new effort commemorates an important value of the season while reference to the company’s business is at best tangential.
In 2014 their “offering” lasted over three minutes. As described by Stephen Masty:
“it recreated the informal Christmas Truce that spread among soldiers in the trenches near Ypres in 1914, one hundred years earlier. Instigated by a British officer writing to his German counterpart across No Man’s Land, it spread up and down the battle lines as, for a few hours, the guns stopped firing. Yesterday‘s and tomorrow’s combatants sang hymns together and celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace.
The 2014 ad was the first to mark the Christianity of Christmas. German and British soldiers start to sing “Silent Night” almost spontaneously; while the only visible product is a WW1-era chocolate bar. I find it emotionally powerful.”
The story of the ad’s creation is in an accompanying video of just over three minutes. It demonstrates why and how a very large for-profit firm honors lasting human values while supporting their business.
The videos’ message is that in the worst of times there can be humanity. And this impulse is to be honored in better times.
Peace, for a moment, broke out in the midst of war. Individuals overcame the ever-present demands of military imperatives and the survival instincts created by trench warfare.
The Blessings of this Season
I am pleased to have shared my observations about credit unions with you this past year.
Cooperatives are a special way to combine our resources to help with everyday individual needs. This is a practical necessity that has existed since humankind first gathered in groups. Whatever the state of the economy.
This season reminds that sharing is an essential human value that is uniquely enabled by cooperative design. Whatever the difference in operational priorities, our unity arises from the belief that the needs of others will be met with common, not just individual, effort.
Merry Christmas. Peace. Goodwill.