When John and Lisa Henderson grew weary of the poor behavior of their three boys, ages 5, 8, and 11, the couple decided upon a radical remedy.
They decided to “cancel” Christmas.
No Santa. No stockings. No presents.
“We have not cancelled putting up decorations, celebrating the birth of our Savior, or any of our other heartwarming traditions,” Lisa explains in her recent blog post, which has gone viral and won the family an interview with “Good Morning America.”
But after months of working with their boys to help them curb a growing sense of entitlement and bad behavior, the parents decided to take the money they would have spent on presents and instead “put it towards service projects and giving gifts to others.”
Their goal? “Teach them the pleasure of giving rather than continuing to feed their childhood desire for more.”
Lisa goes on to describe how the family of five has spent their time recently: organizing a clothing drive to benefit people in a Philippine village hit by Typhoon Haiyan; giving families Nativity sets; looking into participating in the Adopt a Grandparent program.
The boys cried when they learned of Christmas being “cancelled” – but as Lisa relates in an update to her original post, they have since reacted by “making gifts for each other… learning exactly what we wanted them to learn … thinking of others.”
This simple blog post has received a lot of attention.
Some of the comments communicate a sense of outrage that, as one person put it, these parents would “rob their children” with this “overboard” reaction. But most seem to support and admire the Hendersons.
There are many ways to grow gratitude in children and to instill in them an appreciation for the true meaning of Christmas.
Jean and I have been deliberate in involving our own boys in a myriad of Christmas-themed service projects – from packing boxes for Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child to participating in a wonderful ministry to seniors that’s headquartered right here in Colorado Springs called Operation Golden Christmas. They’ve loved every minute of it, and the experiences have had a very positive impact on their spiritual understanding of the holiday.
Of course, the irony of ironies is that the Hendersons aren’t really cancelling Christmas at all. Rather, by reemphasizing the importance of expressing love to one another and exhibiting a spirit of radical generosity, the Henderson family is recapturing its true meaning. Christmas isn’t something you find under the tree in a colorfully wrapped box. It’s something found deep with each individual’s heart as we reflect upon the ultimate Gift.
It’s good to let go of the superficial and false understanding of Christmas. Don’t miss passing on the wonder of the season to your children. There’s a marvelous mystery and intrigue to a God who sent His only Son to earth not riding on a chariot as an earthly king robed in glory, but as a tiny baby born in a filthy manger to a poor unwed mother of maybe thirteen or fourteen years of age.
That’s the type of Christmas that can never be cancelled.
But now let me turn the tables. How have you worked as a parent to emphasize the true meaning of the season? What traditions and habits have made a positive impact on your kids? I hope your experiences will help another family celebrate a truly Christ-centered Christmas.