I have no doubt families did the getting dressed up for Christmas thing. Some probably took pictures, some special pictures Christmas
Eve or Christmas Day. Many probably didn’t want to. There were probably a few grumpy kids and maybe even some grumpy adults here Christmas Eve. For some reason their parents made them get dressed up. They hardly dress up. Every other day its shorts and t-shirts at school. They wear work clothes and casual business clothes. Suddenly Christmas Eve comes and mom or dad expect them to put on their nicest clothes and get dressed up.
How can parents possibly get their kids to do this? The same way they get them to do anything during December, the well-worn line, just be good for goodness sake. Burdened parents look to anything for help in calming a child down, or bending them to doing something like getting dressed up when they don’t want to. See those presents under the tree, they can all go back if you don’t behave. Be nice, listen to mom or dad, do what they’re told, because its Christmas. Adults even do it, expecting other adults to be patient and do good things because someone’s watching. Nice things won’t happen, gifts won’t get given, if we’re not nice to others.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have come and gone for another year. Kids were told to behave, threats were made of taking back gifts, someone’s watching to know if everyone is naughty or nice. But now what? What’s going to get good behavior now? Paul in the second lesson says that actually we’re still …
All dressed up for Christmas
Putting on Christ
Living in Christ
Babies can’t dress themselves. Asking a baby to go into their room and put on some clothes would result in no action. Even two year old’s can’t tie their shoes or pick out coordinating outfits. Adults can clothe themselves. Picking out things that match might be a different matter. But we can get dressed. Spiritually speaking we couldn’t alone. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Paul is not giving a command. It never was a command. It’s a promise. A promise to you who are Christians spiritually clothed with Christ. These virtues, like clothes, should be virtues that are close to us, something we do, something natural.
So how are we doing in making these our spiritual clothes? Compassion calls for seeing other people’s problems and showing them love. It means seeing the woman carrying out of the store balancing five boxes, but not being able to open her car door, and turning to go out a different door so we don’t have to be the one to help. Seeing hurting eyes and expressions of pain and despair in someone who remembers their loved one who died at Christmas even when they smile and pretend it’s not affecting them. But instead of getting into long conversations or taking the time we say we’re busy and avoid. Have we dressed ourselves in compassion at times? Yes, of course. But other times we just don’t feel like it. We complain because it’s too much to ask. Or we excuse our lack of kindness because others haven’t been kind to us. Fear motivates us to be nice to our siblings, or else. We’re told to act our age at the relative’s house, or else. Fear motivates, but we should be dressed in kindness. And showing patience, how impossible is that? The lines at the return counters raise blood pressure. We feel we can’t be setback by waiting for advancement or achievement. We must press and display our frustration or air the dirty clothes of others so the world knows, too.
Though alone you would be unable to succeed in being these virtues, you are God’s chosen people. You dressed up for Christmas, not with nice clothes, but as what God calls you. You are his holy and dearly loved. This is true because of what Paul said just before our section, “Christ is all, and is in all.” It’s not anything you did but what Christ did. He is all. It’s not that you could choose to become God’s chosen, but that Christ is in you. You dressed up for Christmas by putting on the clothes of these virtues, and that started by putting on Christ. And that isn’t your doing, it’s the Holy Spirit’s doing to you. The Holy Spirit gives you a new self, makes you new. The new self willingly accepts the fact that Christ is all and is in all.
From his first breath in this world, Jesus was about achieving peace. His entire word was about him coming to this world to gain this peace for humanity. Peace would be earned by earning forgiveness. Forgiveness would be earned by living a perfect life. And Jesus Christ is the only one who could dress himself in a perfect life. Jesus woke up and put on perfect compassion. He saw the hurt in a woman’s eyes who had lost her son and husband, and he was moved to action. Showing compassion was like wearing clothes for Jesus, it was natural. It was kindness and not obligation that led Jesus to care for Mary and Martha when they lost a brother to death. Obligation didn’t make Jesus nice to his enemies. Christ wore humility and gentleness. And he wore patience each day, going after people who seemed to turn against him. Jesus dressed himself in the virtues you were supposed to perfectly. He lived them.
Perfect patience waited till just the right time in human history before he came. Paul wrote in another letter, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” God entered your world. The Son of God sent to save. God didn’t have to save you, didn’t have to forgive you. But Christ offered his own life as payment. Jesus wore punishment for your sins, he clothed himself in your guilt. With every reason not to forgive you, Christ dressed in patience and love and compassion. Your sins would not cut you off from him but were overcome in the death of the Savior. It started with love in a manger and ended with love on a cross.
You are dressed up for Christmas. You put on Christ. That love and kindness of God let you know God’s peace. The peace of God that comes through Christ lets Christians live in Christ. Christians are new, they have new life. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” You live in Christ and belong to the one body of the church. You stand among all believers, old and young, those living and those in heaven. It’s a support group on an immense scale, all wearing the same perfect clothing won by Christ. In the church you’re brought back to Christ’s peace. Encouraged to pick it up and make it yours. Handed that peace to wear in freedom. Get reminders of Christ’s sacrifice and the forgiveness he won. Then when the world stands against you or goes exactly opposite, you have a place to go to know what’s right. To get a judgment, a ruling. Christ’s peace is like a judge in a fashion contest. They know the rules, they settle the outcome and announce it. Christ’s peace does the same. Someone needed to keep the rules, Jesus did. The outcome is settled, you’re free in Christ. The peace of Christ announces the ruling. Living in Christ, you have peace with God for all time.
You’re dressed up in that peace of Christ. Peace can’t help but flow from you. Here you absorb the teaching of the Word, singing, listening, speaking, partaking. It all points to Jesus. It reminds you of him, connects you to him. Lets him live in you even more.
God’s grace swells in those times as your heart gets closer to God. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Everything you do is done in Christ’s name. Compassion as you play with friends. Kindness as you enjoy a relaxing night with your spouse. Humility as you do your homework to the best of your ability. Patience in work travel. Whatever it is, you’re dressed up in Christ, living in him. You’re guided and moved to give God the glory, thanks, and praise in that moment. Responding in faith, motivated by God’s grace.
Today, the world is past the ways it motivated and encouraged people to dress up their lives during Christmas. Fear, obligation, loss of presents. Those won’t work anymore. You as Christians are moving past them too. These can’t work. Divine grace works. God called you his own, chosen, holy, dearly loved. Sent Christ for you. Promised you forgiveness and peace in Christ. Divine grace and human response go together. Motivated by Christ the Christian will clothe themselves with Christ, becoming closer to him through the study of his Word. And the Christian will live in Christ, giving thanks and glorifying him with a life lived to please him.