I have a love/hate relationship with commercials.
Some loathsome commercials make me want to (in my second son’s verbiage) “gouge my eyes/ears out with a spoon.” Yes, that was graphic, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.
God bless Kars4Kids.org (a national Jewish nonprofit providing mentorship, educational support and nurturing year-round environments). I have nothing against them, but I’m pretty sure U.S. military ops have used their commercial’s theme song for their enhanced interrogation techniques (hat tip to a decade-old Saturday Night Live sketch).
It’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? Here’s your spoon.
Okay, that commercial was a brutal example to start with. Thankfully, there are hundreds of marvelous commercials that I actually want to watch, believe it or not. Some of my favorites from the past and present are:
The Geico Drill Sergeant commercial (Watch here). I must admit I enjoy a bit of schadenfreude watching a guy called out for acting like a whiney little kid!
This is an oldy, but goody – The Alka Seltzer Spicey Meatball commercial (Watch here). Simply a delight, isn’t it? My brother and I used to quote this guy’s lines often while we were growing up. (Okay, I still do.)
Here’s a more recent commercial from Subaru (Watch here). I love the kid being set in the adult’s role. In the end, he’s willing to put off his future adulthood to enjoy his more carefree present childhood. His line, “C’mon…killin’ me!” always makes me chuckle and I admit I use it now while driving (often, I think).
So, what’s the key to a great commercial? Being memorable. What makes a commercial memorable? Well, many things. Artistic direction, music, and videography among other elements. But for myself, it has to move me. How a commercial stirs my emotions is what makes a commercial most memorable. Happy or sad, it doesn’t matter as long as it touches my head and heart.
For example, take a few minutes to watch this heart-warming, tear-jerker of a Christmas commercial. It’s ironic, though. You have to click through a YouTube ad to watch the ad. It’s worth it, though. (Doc Morris “Take Care”).
For me, there is one particular element of all, a single moment, that makes watching the entire commercial worth my time. It’s called “The Reward.”
The Reward is the kicker at the end of a commercial that makes watching worthwhile. The most excellent commercials are deeply engaging with a terrific reward.
What keeps us engaged with a commercial until the reward? Anticipation. Anticipation is “the act of expecting or foreseeing something." (Source)
When a favorite commercial starts, my anticipation begins to build toward the joy of the reward. If I know the reward will be a joy, then anticipation is the delight before the joy. To be honest, I would even be willing to put up with the pain of a Kars4Kids commercial if there was a hilarious reward at the end.
In the first Willy Wonka movie (Clip), the renowned candy genius Mr. Wonka (Gene Wilder) watches as Augustus Gloop falls into the factory’s chocolate river after greedily slurping at the river’s edge. Anticipation starts! The bubbles from the submerged boy head toward an enormous, clear uptake pipe. “What will happen to the boy?” we ask ourselves as our anticipation grows.
The bubbles disappear at the pipe. Then Augustus is seen moving slowly up the pipe until he becomes lodged. As enormous pressure builds underneath him and with his mother looking on in distress, one of the parents asks, “I wonder how long it will take him to push through.” Mr. Wonka replies,
“The suspense is terrible! I hope it lasts!”
Suspense is “anxiety or apprehension resulting from an uncertain, undecided, or mysterious situation” (Source). Suspense is the emotion that fuels the anticipation of the reward. We feel it during a rocket launch countdown, or leading up to a baby’s birth, or even something as innocuous as waiting for the Geico Drill Sergeant to peg the whiner in the head with the tissue box.
Suspense amplifies anticipation.
Carly Simon’s famous song, Anticipation, captured the essence of a Heinz ketchup commercial c. 1979 (Watch here). Sing with me now, “Anticipation. Anticipation. It’s making me wait.”
Why wait for Heinz Ketchup? Because the tag line says it’s so thick and rich in flavor, it’s “the taste (reward) that’s worth the wait (anticipation)!” Anticipation makes us wait in breathless suspense for what’s to come; the thick, rich, savory taste of a premium ketchup. (Okay, maybe that’s a bit overstated, but we all know someone who craves ketchup so much they slather it on every meal and drink it on the side. Am I right?)
Because of the excitement suspense imparts, anticipation can be just as enjoyable as the inevitable reward.
A silly poem I learned as a child goes like this: “Shake, shake the ketchup bottle. First none'll come, and then a lot'll.” Richard Willard Armour’s 1949 poem is cute because it captures the essence of both the anticipation and the reward (and even the danger!) inherent in bottled ketchup. But we can miss out on the thrill of both the anticipation and the reward if we fixate on one over the other.
Anticipation is about the present. Reward is about the future. By just focusing on the present (anticipation), we can lose sight of the future (reward). When we lose sight of the future goal, we can lose hope now. Losing hope deflates motivation and makes for a toilsome, even painful, present. As the Bible says, “Hope delayed makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).
On the other hand, if we just focus on the future (the reward) we miss the delightful suspense of anticipation in the present. How many of us have missed the glory of “now” because we’re fixated on what’s to come? Once the reward has come, it’s enjoyable, yes, but we’ve squandered the pleasures of the journey with no way to recapture what’s been lost. The Subaru kid had the right perspective!
As the Jewish sages wrote in the Talmud (a vast collection of Jewish laws and teachings), “A person will be judged for every (legitimate) pleasure in life that they failed to enjoy.”
This is so appropriate today because many Christians are seeking the reward of Jesus’ return, yet seem to miss the delight of anticipation and a productive life for God now.
Jesus is going to return. He promised to return (John 14:3; Matthew 24:29-44). If He was lying, then He isn’t God in human flesh for God makes promises and He keeps every one of them (Numbers 23:19; Joshua 21:45). God does not lie (Titus 1:2).
Experiencing Jesus’ return is going to be an overwhelming reward to both His living and resurrected followers! (For those who oppose Him, they’ll have to duck the proverbial tissue box flying at them.) The reward of Jesus’ return is the kicker that makes spending the time and effort working for the Lord in this life infinitely worthwhile.
But by focusing on the reward of Jesus’ return, do we miss the delight of life right now as we anticipate the joy of His appearing? Even worse, are we shirking our Jesus-required responsibilities of life now such as “occupy/trade/do business with these [i.e. resources] till I come” (i.e. a productive life, Luke 19:13 New King James Version) and “Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes” (an active, obedient life, Matthew 24:46 Christian Standard Bible)? Are we actively engaged in living for the Lord as we anticipate our reward?
While the boy waits for the ketchup to pour forth onto his juicy hamburger, he still has his part to play – to hold and shake the bottle. “Shake, shake the ketchup bottle. First none'll come, and then a lot'll.”
The same can be said of God’s kingdom, Jesus’ return, and our call to be enthusiastically engaged in Jesus’ work in the present while we wait in suspenseful anticipation of the reward.
Like the proverbial ketchup in the bottle, we look forward to Jesus’ arrival. When it happens, it will be a glorious event that will forever change the world!
“Shake, shake, the Kingdom bottle. First, some will come, and then a lot’ll.” A WHOLE LOT WILL! THE FULL KINGDOM OF GOD…ON EARTH…WOW!
But let’s not waste our God-given time in this earthly body just focusing on the reward of Jesus’ return. That’s going to happen and it will come even though our Heavenly Father seems to be taking His own sweet time about it. But that’s His prerogative (Acts 1:7). We’re called to stay on task during the thrilling, suspenseful anticipation of Jesus’ return, the Great Reward for all who trust Him for eternal life.
“Shake, shake the Kingdom bottle. First some will come, and then a lot’ll.”
The suspense is terrible! I hope it lasts!
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts