Keeping Christmas All the Year

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One of my favorite Christmas movies is A Christmas Carol, and the Christmas season is not complete unless we watch it. A couple of the lines from the movie and from the Charles Dickens book of the same name are particularly memorable:
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." ~Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One! ~A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol-Title page-First edition 1843

So Scrooge learned the joy and the value of being kind and generous, and caring for the needs of others; and not just during the Christmas season, but all year. And we would heartily agree with that, but what does that look like . . . practically speaking? 

Last year I came across an idea for goal setting, using each of the twelve days of Christmas to plan goals and priorities for each of the twelve months of the upcoming year. It made sense and I tried to start, but found that it was quite difficult in December and January to know what to plan for in the coming October and November. A good idea, but it needed some tweaking if it was to work for me.

This year, one of the devotional plans I started following on YouVersion is titled "Merry & Bright: Celebrating Christmas Every Day" and focuses on ways to keep the spirit of Christmas all year long. A devotional and suggestions on that theme for each of the twelve days of Christmas. It has inspired me to use the twelve days to plan the twelve months ahead, and I hope this is the necessary tweak.

(The Twelve Days of Christmas, by the way, is the liturgical season between Christmas and Epiphany. It was first proclaimed a sacred and festive season in 567 by the Council of Tours, which also established the Advent season as one of fasting in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. The Twelvetide solved a practical problem of coordinating the eastern and western Roman calendars, but also became a time of daily church attendance, rededication, and renewal. During the Dark Ages, this sacred season made use of symbolic gifts to teach the gospel, especially to children. Find out more about the history and symbolism of the 12 Days at

So during this Twelvetide, I'm hoping to address my practical need to do some planning on my calendar, and to set some goals to help me "keep Christmas well."

Drawn from the devotional, and from my thoughts, here are some of the ways we can keep the spirit of Christmas all throughout the year.


The Reason for the Season

There's often discussion over whether Christians should celebrate Christmas, as many claim it's not a Biblical feast and that its timing and many of its customs have roots in paganism. Well, it's NOT a Biblical feast, that's true. But the Bible gives us a lot of details about Jesus' arrival and it is essential to the gospel. He is Emmanuel - God With Us - and he is with us always, not just at Christmas and Easter. So not only is it appropriate to celebrate his coming, in my opinion, it is good news that brings hope and joy every day of the year. 

Every day, all year, we should be aware of God's presence with us and making worship, prayer, and reading of God's Word a top daily priority.

Christmas Cheer and Goodwill

Most of us are hollier and jollier during the holiday season than at other times of the year. There are always some grinchy exceptions, but for the most part people are more cheerful and easy-going. More likely to be patient when the checkout line is long or the restaurants are super-busy. More ready with a smile and friendly banter when jostled in a crowd or waiting for service. More willing to let someone ahead in the line. As Christians, we should have those fruits of the Spirit within us and we should be cultivating them. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23
What are some ways we can keep Christmas all the year by demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit? Time spent in prayer and in God's Word will bear fruit in our lives! The joy and peace we have should find expression in how we treat others in everyday interactions. A little more patience and gentleness with co-workers and friends. Faithfulness in keeping our word. Love and goodness prompts us to think of others before ourselves. Perhaps a measurable goal would be something like at least one Random Act of Kindness every week during the year. Or keeping a journal of prayer requests for others and being faithful to pray and to follow up.

Christmas Gifts

The biggest gift-giving occasion of the year is Christmas! It can be a temptation to spend too much, and a time of frustration for those that feel obligated to exchange gifts. It can also be disheartening to see materialism run wild or to see some feeling left out and unloved because gifts didn't meet expectations. Why do we do this to ourselves? What if we could actually live by the adage that "it's the thought that counts"?

The shepherds brought nothing of material value that we know of. But their joy and worship was a gift. The magi brought costly gifts fit for a king, but it was an act of worship. God himself shows us how to give gifts as he gives us blessings too abundant to count. The greatest gift is salvation, and we receive it because God gave his Son. Keeping Christmas all the year should mean a spirit of generosity, and a willingness to share our blessings. 
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ~II Corinthians 9:7
In whatever way God prompts you to be a cheerful giver, be faithful in doing it. Support your church with your tithe, give offerings as the Lord leads, donate to the charities you feel called to support, give gifts to those around you when the opportunities arise. 

Christmas Greetings

Sending Christmas cards used to be a very big deal for many. The first Christmas cards were sent in the 1840s, when businessman Sir Henry Cole paid an artist to make cards he sent to his contacts after he fell behind in correspondence. Even from the beginning of this custom, some criticized it. With email and messaging and social media, it can feel like we don't need to send an annual Christmas card any more. It should be something we enjoy doing, not a chore. The point is to reconnect and catch up with those that live far away and that we may not have been in touch with recently. And isn't it fun to receive something in the mail that's NOT junk or a bill? 

Wouldn't it feel good to bring joy to someone else by an encouraging word of greeting? I have a couple of notes and cards that were kind and loving words that came to me at just the right time, or meant something very special to me. It might be just a scrap of paper with a few lines scrawled on it, but the Lord used it to bless and encourage.
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. ~Proverbs 25:25
Anxiety in a person's heart weighs him down, but an encouraging word brings him joy. ~Proverbs 12:25
A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings. ~ Proverbs 25:11
Do you have loved ones far away that you can't see often? Call or write. Especially if they aren't on social media or don't have email. Write notes of appreciation or encouragement to others. Yes, we can send a text or just SAY "thank you" but the benefit of a written word is that you can look at it again and again. Leave windshield poetry or post-it note greetings to brighten a stranger's day. Need something measurable? How about a short note or card each week throughout the year? If that's too much of a stretch, maybe every other week, or once a month.

Celebrate Together

During the holidays we love to get together with loved ones. The whole extended family gathers for Thanksgiving. We go to dinners and parties and celebrations throughout the holidays. We treasure the time with family gathered around the tree or the table. And yes, there are those who are anxious or stressed because of the gatherings, but generally speaking we want to be with those we love and those that love us.

But sadly, we wait until the holidays, and keep to ourselves the rest of the year. We joke about seeing extended family only at weddings and funerals. And covid precautions have forced us to limit our gatherings and get-togethers during the past couple years. The truth is, we need each other. Humans are social beings, and God has created a need for community within us. And as Christians, we are part of Christ's Body, and we need to be connected to the Body in order to live out the 'one another' callings - Love one another; serve one another; encourage one another; pray for one another; share with one another . . . It's hard to be connected and to love and share with each other when we don't gather.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer . . . Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. ~Acts 2:42, 46-47
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. ~Hebrews 13:2
Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. ~Romans 12:13

Keep Christmas all the year by faithfully meeting with God's people at church, in small prayer groups, in Bible studies. And by showing hospitality - I love the expression 'breaking bread' - and gathering with others, whether they are family or friends, and sometimes even strangers. Hospitality is becoming a lost art as well, we associate it with the hotel and restaurant industry more than with people opening their hearts and homes to others. What will hospitality and gathering look like for you? You could commit to inviting someone to your home for dinner (or lunch, or just coffee!) once a month. Or if that isn't comfortable for you, maybe you could invite someone to eat out with you. 

I'm putting together my goals for intentionally keeping Christmas well throughout the coming year. And I hope that someday it may be said of me that I knew how to keep Christmas well.

This post will be linked at Let's Have Coffee hosted by Joanne Viola: Days and Thoughts

Joanne Viola

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