Micah 6:6-8; Colossians 3:12-17
December 26, 2021
‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; 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.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
After all the presents have been opened, after all the decorations have been packed away, after the New Year has begun, and the sounds of Christmas carols have faded into the background, I invite you, sincerely, to keep wearing your Christmas clothes.
You know what I’m talking about. Everyone has “Christmas clothes”. We had some Christmas clothes in our house this year. For the last two Christmases, I confess that our family has been wearing matching pajamas on Christmas morning. One member of our family has gotten really excited about this habit, and so the rest of us go along, most of us willingly.
I admit, the pajamas do make the morning a bit more festive, as we sit around the Christmas tree opening our presents in matching sleep shirts and pajama pants. But these aren’t the Christmas clothes I invite you to keep wearing.
Some of you may have some special Christmas outfit this year. Maybe you found something looks really good on you, that makes you feel good about yourself, which is not to be taken for granted at any age.
A certain three year old in our church had a beautiful Christmas dress, but what she was really excited about was the knee length socks with the bow at the top. Maybe you had a new outfit for a family gathering or a special party that gave you a feeling of self-confidence, or which made you stand out in a crowd, all of which is fine and well and good. Wear that outfit with pride. But that’s not really the Christmas clothes that I am inviting you to keep wearing.
Some of you may have worn one of those tacky Christmas sweaters to a party or event this year. Maybe others of you wore a Santa hat or an elf at some point, something that made you look and feel goofy and fun. Perhaps you enjoyed some silliness and reverie, which is all fine and well and good, but that’s also not the Christmas clothes I am inviting you to keep wearing.
Some of you may have had to wearing some ill-fitting clothes this year. Maybe the clothes fit the occasion, but didn’t fit you so well anymore, and it just didn’t make you feel very good about yourself. That’s certainly not the Christmas clothes I was talking about, that I invite you to keep wearing.
The Christmas clothes I am talking about, the ones I want to invite you to keep wearing all year long, are those clothes that were a special gift to you from the Christ-child. This clothing cannot be purchased. These clothes are not even available on Amazon. This “Christmas clothing” can only be received, but it certainly can be shared. This is the clothing that the Apostle Paul was writing about to the church in Colossae:
Paul encouraged us to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience.” Elsewhere, Paul writes: “there is no law against such things as these”. When we receive this kind of clothing, and are willing to wear them over time… then we discover ourselves more able to “bear with” one another, as Paul encourages. And we discover that we are more able to forgive each other, and to seek forgiveness from others.
These Christmas clothes of compassion and kindness and humility and meekness and patience are all wonderful pieces of clothing on their own, but they need something that brings them all together. What brings them together and makes them truly beautiful is the gift of love. “Above all clothe yourselves with love,” Paul writes, “which binds everything together in complete harmony.”
When you wear these Christmas clothes, God brings order out of our chaos. Our lives seems to hold together, our family and friends tend to remain bound together, and those who were at odds find reconciliation.
Compassion is part of what makes us truly human. Kindness is what holds relationships together over time. Humility is necessary for any faithful use of power or authority. Meekness is the quality that avoids ongoing conflict and arguments. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” In the Greek lexicon, the word for “meek” is “praus”, which can also be translated as “gentle, humble, considerate”.
Merriam Webster’s simple definition lists “meek” as “having or showing a quiet and gentle nature: not wanting to fight or argue with other people.” Meekness is “enduring injury without resentment,” This simple definition, related to the ancient biblical virtue, is very different from our common English understanding of “meekness”.
Finally, patience. Patience allows time for us pray and to listen. When we are patient, we allow the time for us to seek first the will of God. When we wear these Christmas clothes, other, less attractive clothing, like anxiety and worry, undue concern and fear, are more likely to stay in the closet, and our hearts are more likely to know peace. As Paul writes: “Let peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Allow peace to rule – not only your heart but your life as well. None of us has full control over what rolls around in our minds and hearts, but we do have some agency, some measure of ability to allow or not allow what will rule our hearts.
When we wear the clothes of Christmas, peace has the opportunity to reign in our heart. And the peace of Jesus Christ that passes all understanding can reign in our hearts, even in the midst of chaos or grief or suffering.
When we wear our Christmas clothes, we find ourselves more thankful. A very effective spiritual practice is to begin any time of prayer by stating five things or people for whom you are thankful.
Go ahead, on this first Sunday after Christmas, list five things or people in your mind for whom you are thankful….. Thankfulness, gratitude can transform our whole appearance, our whole disposition.
Vernon Gramling had a quote in last week’s blog that was very apropos to what many are facing these days. One of the members of the Faith in Real Life Bible study, claimed that: “the one who can give thanks can survive the worst life can send.” If we can offer any measure of thanks to God, whatever our circumstances may be, then we just may survive whatever challenging days face us in the year ahead.
When we wear our Christmas clothes, we also let word of Christ dwell in us richly. We allow the word of Christ to guide what we say and what we do. I have heard lately that memorizing scripture verses is making a comeback. I hope that is true.
When a person has many scripture texts memorized, they have a whole arsenal of spiritual perspective available to them at all times. Ask our choir members. Many of the words they sing in their anthems are scriptural words. Our choir members have volumes of biblical texts memorized. And since their texts are set to music, they are more easy to recall and they include the meaning of the music as well.
When we wear your Christmas clothes, the word of Christ can dwell within us, and we become able to teach and admonish one another in wisdom. Many have claimed that people are so much smarter these days in so many ways, but people are not necessarily any wiser.
Wisdom comes from a combination of learning and life experience and divine truth. Wisdom is not necessarily accessible from a google search. Wearing the Christmas clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience give us wisdom in our interactions with one another.
We become able to teach and admonish others in ways that maintain and even build relationships. When we wear our Christmas clothes, we are glad to sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs to God. Singing spiritual songs in gratitude to God is an experience of spiritual freedom that cannot be measured.
Finally, whatever you do, in word or deed, when we are wearing our Christmas clothes, we seek to do everything in name of Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through him. Friends, if we cannot do something or say something with the blessing of Jesus, if we cannot buy something or watch something or listen to something or play some game without what the blessing of Jesus Christ, then we probably should not do it, and we had best pay attention to what kind of clothes we are wearing.
Friends, I invite you to keep wearing your Christmas clothes, the clothes of compassion and kindness and humility and meekness and patience. You look so good in these clothes. You are so good when you wear them. And both you and the Lord will be so pleased when you look in the mirror.
To God be the glory in all our daily living.
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
December 26, 2021