By Paul Koch –
When I was a child, I disliked clothes shopping. You remember the days when mom would hold up outfit after outfit and have you try them on one after another to try to get the perfect size (which was usually just a little too big so that you had room to grow). Getting new clothes back then was necessary, but it wasn’t all that memorable. However, these days, getting new clothes is a lot of fun. While it’s been a while since I’ve bought a new suit, there is an awesome feeling when you wear a new outfit. The clothes can actually make you feel better. Perhaps they make you feel more accomplished or more respectable. You can buy clothes that make you feel more free or spontaneous. Clothes go far beyond being practical and protective. They can make a statement or even help you achieve your goals. There is truth in that old saying that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that clothes are the driving force in your life, but they aren’t impartial to who you are or what you want to be, or at least they can be.
But the thing is, new clothes don’t stay new for very long. What was once new always becomes old, worn, forgotten, and even discarded. Christmas time is the time of the new. We create new experiences by giving and receiving new gifts. Our homes all bear the resemblance of the new. My kids have new toys. There are new gadgets to use, new foods to eat, and new socks to wear. I remember going back to school after Christmas break. The first thing everyone wanted to know was what you got for Christmas. In fact, Christmas itself is the hope of the new. It is why people love this time of year. When we were younger perhaps it was more the new of the toys, but when we grow older it can be the new of gathering with estranged family or repairing broken relationships. Or it can be the new of planning to more lofty goals for the next year, new dreams and aspirations.
And yet every year Christmas comes and goes, and we are often left to wonder if anything really new has come. For when the glimmer of the new gifts fades, we often find ourselves right back where we were before Christmas. Think about it: We went into Christmas among a world torn by division and sin. Political rifts have stalled our government and consumed our life. There is plenty of finger pointing and name calling but not much in the way of solutions. And then we stopped to focus on the greatest of all God’s gifts, the gift of his only begotten Son. We recalled the great story of the new thing that God has done in our midst. Our hope and salvation were again proclaimed clearly for us all to hear, and we loved it. It gave hope, comfort, and greater meaning to our lives. And now, only five days after the celebration of Christmas, we find that things have gone right back to normal. Not much, if anything, has changed.
And while that may be true, while the world seems to just roll on without any regard for you or for the new things that you’ve received this year, there is something that has changed. Something that has been affected by the Word and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas has done something new. It may not change the political landscape or the problems of poverty and immigration, but it has done a very powerful thing. The Word made flesh has changed you. And that change begins with one simple confession. The realization that God, the maker of heaven and earth, the one who gives order and rhythm to the seasons and the times of the earth has chosen you. He has elected you for eternal life. He looked down from the heights of heaven and pointed at you and said, “I want that one as my own.”
You may wonder at this confession. And to be sure, it doesn’t seem very plausible. After all, what have you done to deserve to be chosen by God? Have you lived a life that has elevated itself to the point of being recognized in the courts of heaven? Have you been a stalwart confessor of the faith? Have you loved your neighbor as yourself, living sacrificially so that they might prosper before you? Do you read your Bible every day? Do you pray morning, noon, and night and perhaps a few times in between? Do you resist the temptations of our age so that you might not bring offense to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you volunteer and give of your time and energy? Do you make a regular offering to the Lord, not out of the leftovers at the end of a paycheck but a first fruits offering, trusting that he will provide what you need? Why should he choose you? What have you done to make yourself worthy?
And yet he has. Without much reason or sense of justice, he has called, enlightened, and gathered you here this day so that you might hear yet again that you are the chosen ones of God. You don’t deserve it, you don’t! But he doesn’t seem to care about that. By his Word he does something new for you, something that redefines you. It changes you in a profound way. Though you are sinners bound in sin, he declares you to be saints free in Christ. Though you are full of rebellion and opposition to God, wearing shabby garments of your own making, he calls you beloved, washes you clean, feeds you his blessing, and clothes you in new garments righteous garments, the very garments of Christ himself. Christmas continues to unfold in all its wonder for you, for you have been given new clothes—Christmas clothes.
And listen to the glorious clothes he has given to you. He says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 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.” (Col. 3:12) Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, these are the garments you now get to wear. They are not how you get chosen by God but are the clothes he provides for those already chosen by him. Your new garments in Christ allow for incredible lives where you can forgive and love one another.
And here’s the thing, because of God’s choosing you can wear these garments with confidence. You can walk right out of these doors today with assurance that you are the ones these clothes were made for, custom tailored to fit you perfectly. If someone were to say, “Who are you to wear such things? Who are you to forgive so recklessly? Who are you to love like that?” The answer is clear: You are the chosen ones, free to love and forgive and give thanks to God for all his blessings.
All the other gifts of Christmas morning may indeed fade with time, but not these clothes. No, these Christmas clothes are new and radiant each and every day. They give strength to our fellowship and joy to your daily grind. And sure, sometimes it may be a bit difficult to get used to new clothes. Sometimes you may want to leave them buried in the closet. But they don’t go away; they remain ready for you. And perhaps, over time, you will get more used to wearing them, for they are an extension of who you already are in Christ your Lord. They are the proper garments for those who have been chosen, those who have been forgiven over and over again.
These godly virtues are your Christmas clothes. Go ahead and put them on, and live boldly in the gifts of God.