How do you maintain the spirit of Christmas all year long?

When our boys were younger, I purchased a “chat pack” of questions to ask the kids each night during the advent season.   We have continued this tradition for years and it is one of their favorite holiday activities.  Our question last night was “In your opinion, what attitude or attribute does one need to possess in order to maintain the true spirit of Christmas all year long?”

This year, for the first time in years, I found myself filled with the spirit of Christmas.  I was intentional about doing more things that bring me joy this season.  It meant getting rid of the things that I usually dread this time of year.  It meant more quiet time and less running around.  It meant more cuddle time and less worrying about the perfect gifts and decorations.  It meant more time with Jesus.

I may have found some joy this Christmas season, but will I be able to maintain it all year long? 

I woke up this morning to the news that one of my son’s favorite teachers had passed away.  He was 23 years old.  Yesterday, I received a letter in the mail with devastating news from a missionary family we support.  These events reminded me that not everyone is filled with the particular joy that comes this time of year.  The celebration of Christ’s birth can easily be overlooked by trials, chaos, and the absence of the one thing we need most of all to preserve through the testing of our faith.

James encourages us in James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James makes no reference to the celebration of Christ’s birth in this text.  In this verse, he is simply giving us wisdom on how to live, complete and lacking nothing.  He is challenging us to consider joy as our road to perseverance.  Not just at Christmas, but all year long.  He is giving us the answer to the question as he encourages us to find joy in our circumstances.

So, how do we find joy while struggling with the emotions that surround death, addiction, betrayal, loss, trauma, and anything else that we deal with in our earthly lives?  

Maybe we don’t, not yet anyway.  Maybe we find joy in memories.  Maybe we find joy in forgiveness.  Maybe we find joy in taking one step closer to healing.  Or maybe we just sit for a few minutes and remember that despite whatever is going on in our lives right now, that the attribute of joy is the greatest gift given to us through the birth of Christ.

James reminds us that finding joy is not about our circumstances, it’s about Jesus.  It’s about having faith.  If we focus on finding joy only at Christmas time, we will continue to lack the spirit throughout the year.  Maybe it’s more about finding joy in our hearts and holding onto hope to carry us through the days and weeks ahead.

So while this verse in James doesn’t talk about the birth of Jesus, it does give us what we need to maintain the spirit of Christmas all year long.  What if all year long, in our quest to persevere through our trials, we focus on the gift of joy that came from a baby born in a manger and the hope that came to all of us when he died for our sins?  Maybe then we can carry the true meaning of Christmas with us throughout the year.