Christmas 2018 is in the books.  What are the memories from Christmas 2018 that you will cherish for years to come?  Was it the new game that was played with family members?  Or the food, all that food?  The gifts, the company, the decorations.  With Christmas behind us, we now look forward to the start of another year.   As you look back at 2018, many of you have also set goals and perhaps you have some resolutions for 2019.

St. Paul’s words from Colossians 3 set the tone for what the Lord would like to see in our lives.  It is His resolution for you personally as well as for the church.  You and I have been given some amazing garments that the Lord desires that we wear.  These gifts are yours because Jesus fulfilled everything that was required of Him in your behalf.

This included Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus up to Jerusalem to fulfill the requirements of the law by offering a sacrifice of two turtle doves or two young pigeons for their purification.  This was typically done 40 days after the baby was born.  Even in infancy Jesus’ parents were seeing to it that He fulfilled the entire law.    Luke records that they performed everything according to the Law of the Lord and then returned to Nazareth where they raised Jesus.  This tiny infant grew in strength and in wisdom.  He lived a perfect life and then suffered death on the cross to make you His chosen one, holy and beloved.  You belong to Him.  In your baptism, you have been clothed with His righteousness.  Paul is urging you to wear the beautiful garments with which you have been clothed.  When you reach into the closet what garment will you choose to wear?

Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.  We get to dress like the Father.  As we are dressed with and display these garments we live at peace with one another and bring joy to the Lord.   I rejoice as I see these qualities being displayed in daily living.  I saw a report on television this week about a woman who recently moved to ND and initially questioned why the state has a slogan using the word “Legendary”.  She told the reporter that she hasn’t seen such friendly neighbors where she lived before.  Folks are willing to clear the snow for the person next door and even up and down the block.  We kind of take that for granted living where people are North Dakota nice.  Our family has had the opportunity to be the recipient of a little tug or tow when caught up in the snow or on ice from time to time.

The Lord provides opportunities to be kind at times when we least expect it.  Shortly after Christmas break began, I noticed a vehicle in the parking lot with a family of four including two young children.  They were placing items in the Little Free Pantry.  I went out to thank them for their kindness.  They indicated that they had set aside an item each day when they did their Advent devotions and now they were delivering those goods.  I saw a Facebook post from friends in a sister church who discovered the Little Food Pantry through a project of their student in school.  Their family has made a weekly endeavor to fill various free pantries.  We don’t have to look far to see acts of kindness in our congregation and community.  We certainly celebrate being clothed by our Lord with compassion and kindness.

Not only does Paul tell us what garments to put on.  He also indicates what we are set aside. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. V. 8  At times we wear garments that clash with our God-given clothes.  Ask the parent for whom Christmas break is getting just a little long. Mom, she broke my new toy.  He ate my cookie.  Patience wears thin.  Frustration turns to anger.  The peace and joy of the season are about to come unraveled as anger gives way to shouting and accusations.  OR – When a colleague isn’t on the exact same page with you, you draw you own conclusions about their motives and berate them for not being smart enough to think like you.  Or, we join in the gossip even as we fail to defend one who is not present.  We pile on with destructive and hurtful words.  Malice, wrath, and anger seem to be our go-to’s when things don’t go our way.

I’ve often thought that those who pick on others must not have much self-confidence if there is such a need to make others feel small.   As sinners, we tend to put ourselves on a pedestal.  I am always right.  You are wrong.  Events and concerns in my life are too important to take the time to listen to your concerns.   We are certainly not a reflection of our heavenly Father when we choose to put on anger, pride, gossip, and refusal to forgive.   These attitudes and actions bring sadness to the Lord as peace is destroyed.   He is right to cast judgment on us for our selfish and sinful attitudes and actions.

It is only in Christ that we are restored through the forgiveness that He won for us.  He wore these garments perfectly when He was on earth.  He truly did all things well and then suffered for our imperfection.  He wore the ugliness of your sin when he went to the cross.

A pastor friend of mine was reminded of the stench of sin on Christmas day when he stepped sock-footed that evening onto the basement floor in raw sewage from a backed up septic system.  Rather than calling the neighbor plumber, he decided to take matters into his own hands.  Using the blower aspect of his shop vac and trying to seal the space with his wet socks, he got a face full of nasty smelling moisture.  Then he sealed the hose with plastic trying to unstop the plug.  The sink and another drain erupted four feet into the air.  In the process of turning on the vacuum the second time, he received a shock.  Thankfully he wasn’t electrocuted nor gassed to death and lived to write about it on Facebook.

When we choose to dress ourselves in envy, anger, and wrath, we are as repulsive as the raw sewage that covered him.  The only way to rid ourselves of sin that leads to death is to confess our sin and look to Jesus.

You can have the same peace that was given to Simeon as He held the infant Jesus in his hands.  Simeon saw an image he had been anticipating all of his life.  With his very own eyes, he got to see and hold the long awaited Savior.    God led Simeon to understand that the little baby he was holding was the Prince of Peace, the one chosen by God to save the world.  He could now die in peace as God’s promise to send a Savior was fulfilled.

Part of being dressed in garments provided by the Lord is permitting Him to dress us.  It takes place as we gather here.  16 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 your hearts to God.

Simeon and Anna were both very devout in their worship life.  Anna had been widowed at a very young age after only seven years of marriage.  For sixty years she faithfully lived a life of prayer.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.  I am not asking that you fast and pray day and night.  However, the Lord, through the hand of St. Paul is reminding you of the importance of being in the Word.  I encourage you to intentionally plan to have personal and family devotions in your home.  Continue to do so if you already do so.  If you haven’t started, now is a great time to start.  There are fabulous resources that will nurture you in the faith and remind you of Christ’s love for you.  The worst kind of pride says “I can get through life without the Lord being an integral part of my life.”

I have had times when I have gone through an entire day with my shirt buttoned wrong.  I’ve seen people wear their shirt inside out without knowing it.  I appreciate it when someone informs me that something is askew with my appearance whether it is a pocket hanging out or a zipper unzipped.  When I’m not sure whether my clothes clash, I ask Denise.   We can’t trust ourselves to know whether we are putting on garments of Christ or of self.  That’s why it is so important to hear God’s Word of Law.  Clothes need to be laundered.  We need to be cleansed of sin.  The stench of our sin is not acceptable to God and disqualifies us from being with Him in heaven.  It is only as we approach Him for cleansing that we are made new and refreshed.

That’s why we urge you to come often to God’s house, to confess your sin, to be absolved, to hear of His love for you and His plan for your life.  Be reminded that you are chosen in Christ.   Humbly approach His table to hold His body in your hand and to have His blood pass through your lips to receive forgiveness, life and salvation.  Then, go and tell the Good news to all who will hear that He has chosen them and rescued them from sin and death.

In your baptism, you have been clothed in Christ.  “For all of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Law and His sacrificial death, you can live at peace.  He rose victorious over sin and death to prove that His sacrifice was sufficient to win heaven for you.  He has given Himself to you that you might life in Him.  You belong to Him.  He purchased you to be His through His blood shed at Calvary’s cross.  As a baptized, forgiven, chosen child of God, you and I have the joy of being dressed by the Lord as we go about our work-a-day life.  What will others see?  Will they see you dressed in the peace and joy that is Christ?  As His holy one, chosen and beloved, you are able to live a life of peace and joy, clothed with Christ’s righteousness.  Throughout the coming year, I would urge you to keep this Word from St. Paul close at heart.   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.