ďNew Clothes for ChristmasĒ
In November of every year, I usually get a phone call from my Mom asking me for a list of things I might like to have for Christmas.† And every year I struggle to think of something to put on a list for her mainly because I donít think so much about what I want anymore, but what my girls might like to have.† So every year, as I struggle to come up with some ideas, my Mom always helps me with suggestions of her own, and the first thing she suggests is whether or not I need some new clothes.
††††††††† Now I donít mind getting new clothes, in fact, I like getting new clothes.† The thing is that I already have a closet full of clothes, some that I wear all the time, some that I donít wear very often, some that I canít wear anymore, , and I even have some that still have the tags on them.† Itís not that I donít like getting new clothes, itís just that Iím comfortable with the clothes I already have and normally wear.† Theyíre already broken in, they have stretched where I need them to stretch, and they arenít too small or too big.† They are just right.
††††††††† Well, this last November was no different.† I got the November phone call from my Mom asking for my list of Christmas ideas, and as always I struggled to come up with something.† But then something different happened.† I got a phone call from my Dad who said that he wanted to buy me some new suits.† Of course, my first thought was, ďWhatís wrong with the suits I already have?Ē† I guess he must have talked to Jill first.†
Now, I have three suits, and every Sunday morning I have to try to remember which suit I wore the week before, so I can make sure I rotate them every week.† Of course, the great thing about suits is that you can wear a different tie and itís like your wearing a different outfit.† Well, I keep telling myself that any ways.† At first, I was going to say I didnít need a new suit, but then I thought why not.† So, I got new clothes for Christmas, but that doesnít mean Iím going to stop wearing my old clothes too, my old, comfortable clothes.† Sorry Jill.†
††††††††† Our text for today from Paulís letter to the church in Colossae is also a story about getting new clothes, but most importantly, itís about putting on the new clothes we have been given.† On this second Sunday after Christmas, we are reminded that we are still in the Christmas season as we look back on the greatest gift of grace we could ever possibly receive, the gift of Godís very son, Jesus Christ, but we are also reminded that this is a time after Christmas, when we need to begin looking forward to how this gift of grace of Jesus Christ is going to make an impact on our lives of faith.†
Even though our Christmas day activities have long since ended, the message of Christmas, the message of the Gospel, continues.† It continues to be the message of the hope, peace, joy, and love we have in Jesus Christ, and it continues to be a message of Godís unwavering favor for us, and indeed, Godís own declaration that in Jesus Christ, we are Godís chosen ones, holy and beloved.††
††††††††† Paul makes an amazing claim about who we are in his letter to the Colossians.† In the text, Paul says that we are Godís chosen ones, holy and beloved.† What a remarkable claim to make about who we are and about our new identity.† We should remember that holy doesnít mean perfect and it doesnít mean pure.† Holy means set apart for a purpose.
God chose us because God has a special purpose in mind for us, a special purpose to live differently from the rest of the people around us, a special purpose to do Godís work in the world.† And in order for us to fulfill our special purpose, God has called us to be different people, and for Paul that means we have to start dressing differently, dressing the part as chosen, holy, and beloved people.† †
††††††††† So where do we get our new clothes to wear?† Well, we certainly canít go buy them in the store or dig them out of our closet.† These new clothes we are supposed to wear are given to us as a gift of grace through our baptism.† In the early church, new converts would take off their old clothes and put on new clothes which was a white robe as a reminder to them and to all who witnessed their baptism that they were now new people with a new identity.†
††††††††† Paulís message to the Colossians was that to be new people, they had to literally take off their old clothes, not of the wool, polyester, cotton variety mind you, but of the internal variety Ė the old clothes of the heart and mind.† What Paul wanted them to do was take off and throw away those things that were of their old ways, their old habits and routines, and to put on their heart and mind new ways with new habits that were the ways and habits of Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and most importantly love.† These new clothes are not to be something that we just wear on the outside only when it is appropriate, when we feel like it, or when our comfortable clothes are dirty, but they are to be first worn on the inside and only then will they change our appearance on the outside.† These new clothes we have been given in the end become the visible outerwear of who we really are on the inside.††
Just think about what the church would look like if all of us put on these new clothes and never wore our old clothes again.† Just think about how others would see us, and most importantly what they would see.
On the way home from our trip, we stayed in a hotel, and that night as I was flipping through the channels, I came across the ďGame Show Channel,Ē which shows old game shows from the 70ís and 80ís.† I busted out laughing at the clothes they were wearing.† I canít believe people actually wore those clothes back then.† You know the ones with the huge collars, multi-colored strips, and pastel colors.† It was leisure suit galore.† The funny thing was that I canít tell you who I was looking at.† They were famous people, but all I remember was their clothes.
What if when we put on our new clothes that people didnít recognize us either, but only saw what we were wearing, only saw the One who gave us the clothes to begin with?† What if when we put on our new clothes that people didnít see us, but saw Jesus through the visible clothes of what we wear on the inside?† But isnít that what we are supposed to do anyway, reflect the heart and character of God in Jesus Christ both inside and out?
††††††††† My friends, the new clothes we have been given for Christmas wonít get old, dingy, or too small.† These new clothes will last a lifetime for our life long journey of faith becoming more and more comfortable for us, stretching where we need them to stretch until they too are just right.††
As we begin this new year, let us put off our old clothes and put on some new clothes, so that at all times people will be able to recognize us for who we really are, and what we are really all about - Godís chosen ones, holy and beloved, who do everything in word and deed in the name of our Lord Jesus, and who constantly give thanks and praise to God, who not only gave us the greatest gift of grace in Jesus Christ, but who also gave us new clothes for Christmas.† Amen