Saturday, December 26, 2009
Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas (December 27, 2009)
“Christmas Clothes Designed by the Savior” (Colossians 3:12-17)
When I was a child, I always wanted to get toys for Christmas. I was disappointed when I got clothes. Of course, I pretended I was excited when I opened a box with a new outfit in it. But deep down, I would rather have had a toy. Sorry, Mom. It’s the truth. It’s about time you knew.
When I got older, I began to appreciate the new clothes I received. In fact, it was kind of fun snipping off the tags, wearing the new duds to church, and showing them off on Christmas Day or the following Sunday.
Some of you might be wearing new clothes today. But several months from now, will you remember that you received them at Christmas? It doesn’t take long after the clothes have been worn a few times and hung up in the closet, that we forget which clothes we got on a particular occasion.
Likewise, our Christmas celebration is over not long after it began. After the presents have been opened, after the carols have ceased, after the tree has been taken down, Christmas is officially over for the year. I always get a little sad when, the day after Christmas, I see Christmas trees already at the curbside, ready for the mulcher or whatever Christmas tree graveyard awaits them. Yes, Christmas is officially over for the year. And for many, so is its message.
What about for you? As God’s baptized children, what is your response to the Christmas Gospel? Are you ready to put it away for another year? Or are you ready to “put on” some new “clothes” which have been given to you … clothes given from God himself?
God has given you and me some clothes to “put on.” We hear about them in today’s Epistle lesson from Colossians 3. I’m calling them “Christmas Clothes Designed by the Savior.” These clothes that God has given us to wear are the clothing of a Christ-centered lifestyle.
There are some clothes we often wear that we have made ourselves. These clothes are the product of our sinful nature. Paul writes about them right before today’s reading. Paul writes in verse 5 that we are to consider the members of our earthly bodies as dead to immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed. He says that these bodies with their sinful desires are deserving of God’s wrath. He also writes that we are to rid ourselves of such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language.
As we hear this, remember to whom Paul was writing. He was writing to a church in a city in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey. The city in which the Colossian Christians lived was steeped in the Greek paganism of the surrounding region. According to historians, the prevailing mood of that region and that time was the almost universal acceptance of loose living. Therefore, Paul is writing to the Colossian Christians to tell them that a return to these evil, sinful vices would be tantamount to a return to the paganism in which they were previously involved.
You and I are living in a culture in which loose living is almost universally accepted. Immoral lifestyles are becoming more acceptable even in some parts of Christendom. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us through the inspired apostle as he originally spoke to the Colossians. Allowing ourselves to be ruled and controlled by our sinful desires places us right back in the same boat as the rest of the unbelieving culture around us. Or should I say, rather, that we’ve “jumped ship”? We’ve abandoned the “ark” of our baptism. And without the grace of Christ’s forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit, the next logical question is, “How long can you tread water?”
When the sinful nature gets the upper hand in our lives, relationships are fractured. Husbands are at odds with their wives, and vice versa. Parents no longer communicate with their children, allowing jobs or other responsibilities to take priority. Above all, natural man cuts himself off from God. He acts as the selfish, self-seeking animal that is his curse. In cutting himself off from God, man clothes himself with selfish rage, anger, malice, and other Satanic attitudes and behaviors.
On the other hand, God has provided some very different clothes for us to put on. The clothes that God has made for us are fashioned after our Lord Jesus.
What are these clothes? And how do we put them on? First we need to go all the way back to the beginning of the chapter, where Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:1-3) You and I were raised with Christ in Baptism and our old sinful nature was put to death. Paul writes similarly in Romans 6, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:4) And also this: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Rom 6:6) “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Rom 6:11-13)
So how do we, as Paul says in today’s text, “put to death … whatever is earthly in you”? Remember who you are as one who is Baptized. Those earthly things have already been put to death in you in Baptism, where you were united with the death of Jesus, who died for your sins. Then, you can “put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” the “Christmas Clothes Designed by the Savior.” You can put on the clothing of compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love, the peace of Christ, and gratitude.
Did you get any “designer clothing” for Christmas? Who are some of the famous fashion designers today? Giorgio Armani, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, and Vera Wang, among others. If a person wears any clothing by these people, you dare not go around boasting to other people that you made your clothes yourself.
In the same way, you and I dare not take credit for any of the “clothes” that our Lord Jesus has made for us. Our salvation through faith in Christ is solely the result of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts by God’s grace. Also, the new life that we live, the fruit of salvation in Christ, is also produced by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts by God’s grace. We give God all the glory for every aspect of our salvation, including any compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love, peace, and gratitude that is produced in us as the fruit of our salvation in Christ Jesus.
This new life that we live in Christ is shown in our worship, in our actions, and in our relationships.
It is shown in our worship because the word of Christ dwells in us richly. When we gather together, we hear God’s Word preached, read, and sung in the liturgy.
It is shown in our actions. We bear with one another and forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven us.
And finally, the new life we live in Christ is shown in our relationships. Because of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, our relationships will be changed. As forgiven husbands, wives, parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends, co-workers, fellow congregation members, and so on, we can look for new ways in which to forgive, serve, and love.
Today’s Epistle lesson concludes: “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.” (Col. 3:17) Everything we do is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. How do we do this? We do it by continually calling upon his name. Our worship is done in the name of Jesus. It’s only through him that we have access to the Father. In the same way, our whole life is a life of worship. Worship does not begin at 8:00 or 10:30 on Sunday morning and end an hour and fifteen minutes later. Our life of worship continues outside those doors as we do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, calling on him, and knowing that he is the source of our new life.
Calling on the name of Jesus is an expression of gratitude for all he has done for you. It is a thankful, joyous invocation. It is a proclamation and confession of faith in Jesus as the center and source of our new life … our new life with God and our new life with one another.
So give thanks to God today for your new “Christmas Clothes Designed by the Savior.”