Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas
December 27, 2015, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Colossians 3:12-17
Sermon Theme: “Taking Back the Christmas Gift That Doesn’t Fit”
(Sources: Anderson’s Cycle C Preaching Workbook; Brokhoff Series C Preaching Workbook; Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas; Online Stories about Exchanging Christmas Gifs)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
It may be too soon after Christmas for any of you to have to deal with exchanging Christmas gifts that don’t fit. It’s such a hassle that I’m inclined to want to give the oversized or undersized garment to Goodwill. And it’s probably a toss-up as to which is more difficult to exchange, that which was purchased at a shopping mall or that bought online.
My bad experiences have been mostly with those purchased online, including a belt from Amazon that would have fit my thigh rather than my waist. Eventually I was able to return it.
However, I read about a woman who bought a crocheted halter top for her daughter for Christmas from Amazon and had horrible time trying to exchange it. It was a one size fits all garment, but when she got it, it was too small to fit any human creature; she asked to return it, and they said, ‘No, one size fits anybody.’
Well it didn’t, so to prove her point she put the crocheted halter top on her cat, and took a picture of the cat wearing it. Then she sent a photo of the cat wearing it to Amazon with a note saying, “See, here’s my proof.” Amazon was convinced and said she could return it for a refund. However, the cat hated it and ripped it off.
Most of the time, one-size-fits-all does fit unless you’re excessively obese. And it is especially true that one size fits all if you are referring to the spiritual clothing Paul describes in today’s sermon text.
Paul says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” The NIV says, “Clothe yourselves,” a translation I like better, because the Greek verb rendered as “put on” can only refer to clothing (and not, for example, “put on a pot of soup”).
Mark Twain once quipped, “Clothes made the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” If that is true, and I believe it is, just imagine the influence a person dressed in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love would have on society!
The problem is today’s world, based on newspaper headlines, neither possesses nor values such qualities as compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love; if they did, the world would be transformed.
In the case of “spiritual” clothing, one size DOES fit all, but not everybody is open to wearing such inner garments. The passage goes on to say, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” They either see those qualities as out-of-date, unstylish, baggy clothing; or they see them as wearable by the Goody-Two-Shoes of the world, but too tight and restrictive for the rest of the world.
Not true! With spiritual clothing, one size DOES fit all, or SHOULD! But how? How is this possible?
Paul gives us the answer in our text: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in our hearts 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.” This implies that we begin with salvation by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ.
“How do I allow the Word of Christ to dwell in me richly?” This is a question one of your colleagues, fellow workers, or family members may be struggling with, and you need to have an answer for him or her.
Over the years, I have had so many folks, both church members and un-churched Facebook friends message me, saying they need to get serious about their spiritual life, but don’t know how to start.
The best answer I have heard to the question, “How do I allow the Word of Christ to dwell in me richly,” was spoken by Christian leader, D. J. Depree of Michigan, to a Gideon convention. He said we had to engage in these ten important spiritual activities:
One, we must READ IT (1 Timothy 4:13); two, EAT IT, that is take it into our very being (Jeremiah 15:16); BATHE IN IT for spiritual cleansing (John 15:3); LOOK INTO IT AS A MIRROR to see our true selves (James 1:23-25); MEDITATE ON IT (Psalm 1:2 and 1 Timothy 4:15); MEMORIZE IT (Deuteronomy 11:18); STUDY IT (2 Timothy 2:15 and Hebrews 5:12-14); TEACH IT to others (Colossians 3:16); TALK ABOUT IT (Joshua 1:8); and SOW ITS SEEDS of truth in the field of the world (Matthew 13:3-9 and Luke 8:11).
With spiritual clothing, this is how one size fits all. What a perfect new Christmas outfit for any of us to wear in the New Year.
Paul seems to be talking especially to newly baptized members of the church, because in verses preceding our text he says his readers used to walk in the ways of anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, etc., but now they must rid themselves of such. In Paul’s day, when people were baptized they would put on white garments, and this practice, to some extent, is stilled followed today. These are the white garments symbolizing righteousness God gives all of us in baptism.
In Isaiah 61, the prophet tells Israel and us we should rejoice that God has clothed us with righteousness and salvation. In the first Chapter of Ephesians, Paul tells us that as Christians we put on Christ’s robe of righteousness and are saved from judgment. At Christmas, the Word comes to us clothed in human flesh. The Savior also wears the God-given garments of righteousness and salvation.
The world, sin, and the devil clothe us in anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. Those are garments that never fit a person under God’s grace, and they should be exchanged for a proper fit. As baptized, born again Christians, the Holy Spirit clothes us in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love, and one size fits all who have faith.
When I was a kid growing up in Trinity Lutheran Church, Dime Box, members would not have thought of going to worship without dressing in his or her Sunday best. They did so out of the notion that God is holy and we dare not enter His presence without wearing our very best. My father owned one threadbare suit, and he wore it winter and summer, because he believed that notion. As a young adult, I never rode a train or flew on a plane without wearing a suit and tie.
When I first came here to St. Paul’s in 1988, all the men wore suits to church, spring, summer, fall, or winter, and most did it for the reason, — God is holy and we dare not enter His presence without wearing our very best. Though I’m sure some just did it out of habit.
Both here and in Dime Box, some folks were overly concerned about their physical clothing, yet gave only lip service to what they wore spiritually. Spiritual clothing should be our greater concern. You know, Jesus Himself criticized the Pharisees for being so high and mighty on the outside while being anything but pure and holy on the inside.
Times have changed since the 1940’s; dress is much more casual today. Many department stores no longer even carry men’s suits, and wearing a three-piece suit in Texas in the summer makes no sense whatsoever. However, we’ve lost some sense of respect for God by dressing too casually.
Paul’s final words to us in the text are these: “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.” As we move into the New Year, we need to keep those words in mind, and in so doing, our words and deeds will take care of themselves. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.