A congregation of the United Church of Canada
Yr C ~ Christmas 1 ~ Colossians 3:12-17
What are you clothing yourself in these days?
Hope, peace, joy, and love? That’s what we said during Advent all through December. Did it work? Were you clothed in those things? Did the annual rhythm of preparation for and anticipation of Christmas capture your spirit? Were you clothed in pre-Christmas cheer?
I wish I could say I was, but I was not. If anything, it was a little threadbare! I mean, it started out well! We were finding our way back into in-person worship in addition to this wonderful online version. I was starting to venture out and make some connections for making more music with people. We had wonderful plans for 2 in-person Christmas Eve services, even with some innovation of having one outdoors! Life was starting to feel like normalcy was slowly re-emerging. It really was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
And then, it turned. A new Covid variant emerged – I ended up getting Covid and having to isolate for 10 lonely December days – and all the in-person restrictions suddenly returned in order to protect people and try to keep us healthy. And in a moment, it seemed, it all went poof. And so did my pre-Christmas spirit.
Now, since then, in the last week, things are turning again. Our son has come home for a visit, I got through the swirl of church Christmas things, and now it’s Boxing Day and we’re on the other side of all the pre-Christmas hubbub. (Yes, I’m actually recording this before that stuff happened – but I’m an optimist by nature!) I know that for many families, Christmas gathering plans had to be tweaked, or simplified (or sadly even cancelled). But I hope that now that the big day is done, and we’re in the aftermath, that we might have the capacity to pause, and take a deep breath, and reflect.
I don’t know what you may have got for Christmas, but I’d wager there was at least one piece of clothing. (Even if it was just socks or underwear in your stocking!) Giving clothes at Christmas is kind of a staple gift. Lately, Christmas sweaters are all the rage. I think my daughter has 10 of them! (And she wore a different one to work every day!) It’s one of the more obvious ways that we can clothe ourselves in Christmas. It’s a little harder to clothe yourself in hope, peace, joy, and love (especially when the swirl of the world feels like it’s against you). But then Christmas finally comes, and we celebrate in the best way we’re able to, and then we collapse! (Ok, maybe that’s just ministers after the December rush, but I doubt it.)
So I go back to my original question: what are you clothing yourself in these post-Christmas days? Maybe it’s rest! That would be good. I’m certainly trying that one on for size! Maybe you’re clothing yourself in Christmas cheer? Or maybe you’re clothing yourself in Christmas baking! Cookies abound!
Would it be too surprising for the preacher guy to suggest that maybe we might clothe ourselves in a bit of scripture? We’ve just come through Christmas Eve worship, especially our ‘Lessons and Carols’ service in which scripture is so central. (If you haven’t watched that yet you can find it on our YouTube channel.) So we’ve been paying more attention to scripture lately than maybe we normally would, because the Christmas story is such a major pillar of our identity as people of faith, and we pay really close attention to it at this time of year.
I’m wondering if we might stay in that spirit and clothe ourselves in scripture a little longer. Interestingly, today’s reading, on the Sunday that’s called Christmas 1, has nothing to do with the birth narrative of the baby Jesus. But I think it has a lot to do with Christmas!
Oh, I don’t mean Christmas way back then. That didn’t exist. The celebration we call Christmas emerged centuries later. But this excerpt from the letter called Colossians sounds like it was written today. It sounds to me like a preacher looked out at their congregation in the aftermath of the modern colossus called Christmas, and wondered what they might offer to their faithful folks to help them through the holidays.
So I invite you to take a deep breath, and close your eyes, and to allow these ancient, yet so current, words to wash over you and speak to your spirit in this post-Christmas denouement.
3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
3:13 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.
3:14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
3:16 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.
3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Parent through him.
Aren’t these the Christmas clothes we need the most?!
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Clothe yourselves with mutuality.
Clothe yourselves with forgiveness.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love.
Clothe yourselves with peace.
Clothe yourselves with thanksgiving.
Clothe yourselves with scripture.
Clothe yourselves with songs of praise.
Clothe yourselves with discipleship.
Clothe yourselves with God’s Presence.
And unlike that sweater, these Christmas clothes will fit you perfectly!
Maybe next time we get together in-person we can all show one another our shiny new Christmas clothes! That would make for a very Merry Christmas season indeed!