A reflection on ALTERnativity

I’m sure that, like me, you’ve realised that we are now facing the pre-Christmas frenzy.

But of course, there should be much more to Christmas than ‘frenzy’, and I’ve been thinking very seriously about something that was said at the Christian Aid AGM this year by a bishop from Uganda. He suggested that instead of focusing on making poverty history, we should instead concern ourselves with making greed history. It is greed, he argued, that supports the status quo, ensuring that it is enormously difficult to attempt to challenge and change structures which keep people poor.

I think Christmas is a great time to raise the topic of greed, as it is a time when even the best intentioned of us indulge, over-buy, cave into the pressure of finding the perfect gift, and generate as much waste in a week as we normally do in a couple of months.

This year the Christmas build up begins as climate scientists around the world have hit the panic button – indicating that unless there is a fundamental shift in our behaviours, politics and economics, then we are on course for even more erratic and extreme weather. Weather that is already depriving people of their homes and livelihoods and driving displacement.

So what can we do about it? ALTERnativity exists to support individuals and Churches to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of Advent and Christmas and reflect on the Christmas story, and specifically Mary’s concern for the poor. Over the years, our conversations have let us hear people share frustrations that Christmas is incredibly busy, very stressful, gifts are given and received without much thought and the pressure to overspend and take on debt is enormous.

Christmas, for all the perfect marketing, can be a very lonely and stressful time for people. ALTERnativity asks people to recognise the poverty of that first Christmas and encourages people to think critically about how we celebrate the coming of the Christ child in a world where more than half of our sisters and brothers are starving. In responding to this, our new resource is aimed at getting people talking - sharing the joys and stresses of Christmas; reflecting on what gifts are most appreciated; and challenging ourselves to cut back on the waste that is generated in our celebrations.

This complements our advent family box that enables families to take a little time each day of advent to reflect on one aspect of the Christmas story. With a reflection for children and another for adults, this is a wonderful gift for Sunday schools, Messy Church and youth organisations.

Thanks to the support of ACTS, we are delighted to be able to offer our new resource for free, and we are now giving away the family box for free as well – only charging postage if people are unable to collect from either the Church of Scotland Office in Edinburgh or the Christian Aid office in Glasgow. If you would like to receive our resources, please e-mail or find us on Facebook ( )

Val Brown is the Chair of ALTERnativity and works for Christian Aid.


  • 56 years ago