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Church ad shows surprised Virgin Mary looking at positive pregnancy test

Her hand covers her mouth and there's a stunned, scared look in her eyes. The pregnancy test is positive.

No, it's not a teen actor in an after school special, it's the Virgin Mary in the latest Christmas billboard from St. Matthew-in-the-City, an Anglican church in Auckland, NZ, that's no stranger to controversy.

In a statement on the church's website, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy explained that the billboard, "Mary is in the Pink," is intended "to avoid the sentimental, trite and expected to spark thought and conversation in the community."

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From the statement: "Christmas is real.  It's about a real pregnancy, a real mother and a real child.  It's about real anxiety, courage and hope."

"Many in our society are suffering: some through the lack of money, some through poor health, some through violence, and some through other hardships.  The joy of Christmas is muted by anxiety."

It's not the first time the church has stirred controversy at Christmas. Its 2009 billboard showed Mary and Joseph naked in bed after sex. "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow," read the caption. The church was forced to remove the billboard after it was repeatedly attacked.

Then, Archdeacon Cardy told the NZ Herald that the billboard was meant to inform people that many Christians don't believe in a virgin birth or hold it as a central tenet of Christmas: "We're not out just to deliberately stir the pot. We're out to critique the idea of a male god impregnating Mary and the literalism of the virgin birth."

This time, the church has invited people to come up with their own captions for Mary and her pregnancy test.

"I am a hesitant blessed vessel," wrote Sarah from Wellington. "Oh dear lord..what have you done?" added Veronica from Auckland.

"Was it Luke or John..... or what's his name Joseph??" quipped Nick from Wellington.

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"Now, which way to the abortion clinic?" hazarded one Robert from Auckland - not exactly the empathetic spirit Archdeacon Cardy had in mind.

What do you make of the ad? Thought provoking or a shameless publicity stunt?

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Zosia More

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