Sermon: Christmas 1C, Sunday Dec 30th, 2012
St Petri, Combined Service
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
How did you go at Christmas? Gifts all good? Some gifts are great because they are fun – they are toys to play with, even for big people. Some gifts are not so much fun, but they are practical – like that usual pair of new socks that grandma always gives, or that pair of underpants that your mum always manages to put in somewhere, or that summer T shirt or nice new shirt.
Sure, getting clothes doesn’t give the big excitement factor as the present is opened, but a few weeks after all the presents have been opened and some of the toys worn out, that new pair of socks will come in to their own and that new T shirt will become a much appreciated piece of clothing. New clothes are good for that – they last. They are practical.
New clothes are good for other reasons too – they make us look good (hopefully!) and that all helps in helping us to feel okay about ourselves when we are out and about. It is a good feeling to feel like we look good (even if others might not agree!).
It is true though, that the whole new clothes thing – the fashion thing – can become a little too important for us. We do have this human need to feel okay about ourselves. If new clothes are the thing that we rely on to be okay with ourselves and others we will become fashion junkies – addicted to that new fashion look – dressing in self chosen clothes to cover up all the things that are not okay within us and our relationships.
The new clothes we choose to wear can keep us on something like a tread mill where we are totally focussed on ourselves and how we are looking among others – and of course, when we are focussed in on ourselves – seeking to always please others, we are getting into the territory of selfishness and pride in a destructive sense. We somehow disconnect ourselves from others and certainly disconnect ourselves from God and his presence in our lives and hearts. When we get to this kind of reliance on our own clothes we are not in a good place as far as being fully alive disciples of Christ.
It is lucky for us that God’s got a whole set of new clothes for us – clothes that he has made and which he has placed on us in baptism. Paul speaks of new clothes for a new year and a new day. These new clothes both make us “other-person” focussed, and help us to remain other- person and God-focussed in our living.
The reason why Paul can call us to “put on” these new clothes for a new day is because he is sure that God has already given them to us. God has given us the clothes of his own Son, Jesus. God has chosen us to wear the life and love of Jesus to display him to others. We have been made new on the inside by the love, peace and joy of God again this Christmas, and we have been made living bearers of the shining clothes of the light of Christ. We walk through life on God’s cat-walk as we show off Christ and his clothes.
So, what are the clothes we both have been given are now called to wear for the new year?
Well, Paul gives a pretty good list of our new clothes of Christ.
Two of the new garments are about HOW WE ARE TO TREAT OTHERS. First is the garment of tender mercies The first word, “tender”, (splagchnon) literally means “bowels” because a person’s bowels were regarded by the ancient people as the place of the tenderer affections, especially kindness and compassion”.
The second word, “mercies”, (oiktirmos) describes “compassion, pity, mercy”. God has given us “an inner life in which compassion lives”, or as we might say today, a heart of compassion. We are to live this inner life outwardly for others.
Then there are the clothes of kindness (chrestotes). The Lord has given us his kindness in his Son in that little manger and on that rugged cross, and so, we are to speak and act in kindness as Jesus speaks and acts toward us in his Word and Sacraments.
Two more pieces of Christ’s baptismal clothing are concerned with THE STATE OF MIND WE ARE TO POSSESS. The first is humility (tapeinophrosune); having a humble opinion of one’s self; a deep sense of one’s “littleness” with others before God. Having a healthy modesty, humility, lowliness of mind as Jesus had as he lived his life in service to his Father and people around him – all kinds of people!
Then there is meekness (praotes). Gentleness, mildness, meekness. As the Lord acted in gentleness to us – even being born as an infant, we speak and act with gentleness, even if sometimes boldly and with conviction – but still never for the beating of our own drum – always to show the new clothes of Jesus’ forgiveness we have received.
Paul knows what life is like and how people are not always kind, meek or compassionate – even if we are! Three garments in our new wardrobe relate to HOW WE SHOULD ACT WHEN MISTREATED.
Paul commissions us to be longsuffering (makrothumia). These are the new clothes of Christ’s patience, forbearance, longsuffering, and his giving up of revenge on others. These enable us to bear with one another (anechomai), rather than leave each other when life gets tough. As the Lord bore us and our sin and weakness and self-orientation in his own body on the cross, so we bear those things in others when we encounter them.
And then there is that most precious garment that we constantly need from God and constantly need to give – the garment of forgiving one another (charizomai). The Lord has put his forgiveness on display again this Christmas and as the new year begins, his promise is to forgive and forgive again because of what he has done in Christ for the whole world. So we do something pleasant or agreeable to someone else. We do people a favour by forgiving them in Christ’s name. Sometimes we let things go and sometimes we call people to account and assure them that we will not keep them imprisoned in our hurt or anger.
The final garment that tops off all the others and makes our clothes “work” in displaying the light of Jesus among people is LOVE (agape). This is the best new garment: true self-giving, self-sacrificing love that God has showered upon us. We are clothed in his undeserved love and so we bear that and give that away in his name and strength.
Self-giving love is described by Paul as “the bond of perfection”. Love is “the perfect tie that binds” the other clothes of Christ on us. Love is a belt binds pieces of clothing together. Love is the reality that makes us people who fulfilled and complete. Our outward actions match our inner convictions and we are at peace with ourselves. Without love, none of the other pieces of Christ’s clothing can last; with it, the others can be easily maintained.
How good it would be in 2013 to happily wear these new clothes that Jesus has already provided. In the challenges the new year will bring, there will be people bearing with each other, serving each other, forgiving each other, letting go of revenge for others and we will be a people of love.
Friends, the new year starts with us setting our minds on things above, says Paul (Col 3:1-2). Our minds will be set on the good things of Christ by letting the Word of Christ live in us richly. As we let the Word of Jesus have free reign and free course in our thinking and acting, the Spirit of God, working in his Word and his Sacraments, will fix our minds, our goal, our work, our words, our purposes on Christ and his will for us we will experience his peace – his shalom and life then can be lived in thankfulness.
The new clothes of Christ are tailor made for his people and we are his holy and chosen people…
a. We are “God’s elect” (His chosen ones) – Col 3:12
b. We are “holy” (set apart for a sacred purpose) – Col 3:12
c. We are “beloved by God” – Col 3:12
d. We have been “forgiven by Christ” – Col 3:13
So, chosen, holy, loved and forgiven people of God, clothe yourselves this day and this next year with the Lord’s new clothes and teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
All thanks be to God in the name of Jesus.