The countdown is officially on. December has arrived and so too have the minced pies, mulled wine, tinsel-draped shop windows, fairy lights, festive tunes, and everything else that comes with the build up to Christmas Day. Christmas can be a lovely time of enjoying good food, singing carols and general merriment. Alongside these staples of this festive period is the familiar cry that Christmas has become too commercialised, and symbolises the worst of modern Britain’s consumerism and culture of excess. A recent survey revealed that the average Briton anticipates spending £355 on gifts alone. However, those of us living in Scotland are tipped to be the most generous when it comes to buying presents, as an average spend of £413 is projected this year. Those are staggering statistics which highlight just how far shopping frenzy that surrounds Christmas has gone.
Coupled with this commercial and commoditised picture of Christmas is the sad reality that it can be an extremely lonely time for many people; those who are spending the festive season without their loved ones, those for whom family is not a secure or happy concept, those who are struggling with financial worries and burdens, or those who do not have a roof over their head. As Christians, this is something that makes us distinctly uncomfortable and does not sit easy with us. How can we make ethical choices this Christmas? I want to briefly point out some really practical ways of honouring God in making ethical consumer choices.
- Give as you live
If you are going to do any kind of online shopping this Christmas please consider doing so through https://www.giveasyoulive.com/ You sign up for free, shop as you normally would (including the likes of eBay, Argos, Amazon, Tesco, ASOS, etc.), and a percentage of what you spend is donated to a charity of your choosing. You can’t say fairer than that!
- Tearfund Living Gifts
“Give a Gift that can change a life today” http://www.tearfund.ie/livinggifts/ – Every year instead of buying me a conventional gift, my granny opts for a ‘Living Gift’: over the years this has included gifting a family with mosquito nets, chickens, goats. My personal favourite was the year she bought a pair of shoes to allow a young girl to go to school in Sub Saharan Africa. These presents are often the highlight of my Christmas celebrations as I know it’s not something I will quickly forget.
- Christmas Cards
Buy Christmas cards from a local charity shop where the proceeds will be given to charity.
- Christmas Trees
Perhaps you won’t be buying a Christmas tree for your flat in Glasgow – but if your family are thinking of buying one, why not encourage them to buy a real tree this Christmas? If trees are grown as crops, and replaced after harvesting, this is a more environmentally sustainable option than purchasing a synthetic tree. According to the founder of Greenpeace Patrick Moore, one way of protecting the environment is to choose renewable materials and energy whenever possible: “Artificial trees are made from non-renewable plastics and petroleum-based products. Although some people claim that these trees last a lifetime, most are thrown away within nine years – and remain in landfill sites for centuries.”
If you live in Scotland. perhaps you could consider purchasing your tree from Caring Christmas Trees, who donate the money to Bethany Christian Trust and their work among the homeless in our city.
A verse that I have been thinking about a lot recently, and one that I think is pertinent for this season is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31. Paul writes “so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” My prayer is that over this festive period we would be glorifying God in all that we do: be that in our studies leading up to the exam period, in our festive parties, in our family traditions and in our time spent alone with Him. May we open our eyes to those that our society so often overlooks, those who are cold, hungry and without a safe place to call their own, both in Glasgow and further afield. May we make ethical choices in all that we do and most especially in our buying of Christmas gifts and partaking of annual traditions this Christmas time.
Words: Bronwyn McLean