Starting in 2006 a number of clergy and congregations began to push back against the increasing commercialization of Christmas by inviting their members to consider giving gifts to charity instead. In the first year hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised.
An article on Ethics Daily describes how the movement gained steam and expanded across the nation and beyond from its start in the Portland Oregon area:
"...pastor friends from around the country hatched what they called the Advent Conspiracy. They challenged their congregations: Spend less on Christmas, give relational gifts and donate the money saved to the poor.
...In the following few months, word of the Advent Conspiracy spread over the Internet. McKinley and like-minded people such as 'Purpose Driven Life' author Rick Warren talked about it every chance they got.
This year, about 491 churches from 10 nations have joined the conspiracy, says Jeanne McKinley, who directs the program from Imago Dei Community with her husband Rick. World Relief, an evangelical mission group, has recruited 500 more churches to participate. About 1,700 individuals have joined on the Internet, she says.
Rick McKinley asks one thing of his co-conspirators--that they donate at least 25 percent of their Christmas savings to clean water projects. The United Nations Development Program estimates that $10 billion a year would help solve the shortage of clean water.
'The church needs to be on the leading edge of solving this problem,' he says."
Read the rest here.