Is this 2014's best Christmas ad?

This ad by Contra has a different message to most of the Christmas campaigns.

Up until the message is revealed at the end, the ad above could be for any major brand that wants to position itself as an enabler of a happy family Christmas. It has a slick, commercial sheen achieved through polished lighting, hair and make-up (even including a real shave reversed), grading and VFX, and professional kit – some of which is on show in the making-of video below.

So that it's an ad for Christianity caught me off-guard – which is the intention of its creators at London digital agency Contra I'm sure. It's not overt or preachy about it, more subtly reminding us of the Christian heritage of Christmas and driving watchers to a website where, if you feel so inspired, you can pop in your postcode and find a local church to visit – whether you're at home, work, friends or relatives.

You could say it's not trying to sell us Christianity in the same way that the most highly regarded Christmas ads don't try to sell us products – but instead a modern idea of the spirit of the holiday season (which can, of course, be brought into your life by shopping at the right department store or supermarket).

That modern spirit isn't religious, but drawn from the coming together of family (John Lewis' 2014 ad), friends (John Lewis' 2013 ad) and even enemies (Sainsbury's 2014 ad). The spirit of Contra's ad – like that of the Christian Christmas story – is about the hope that comes from the birth of a child. This is something that even a staunch-but-not-like-Dawkins atheist like me can get behind – though it could just be getting to me because I'm a dad.

So in some ways, this is the best Christmas ad of the year. It's not a celebration of what you already have, but promoting hope to those who might need it. And it's impossible to be cynical about that.

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