1st Sunday after Christmas
December 27, 2015
“How to be a Christian”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us this morning is the Second Lesson read earlier from Colossians chapter 3.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Well, here we are. The bustle and business of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day behind us. Maybe you’re worn out from “Deck the Halls” and you’ve had your fair share of “Fa La La La La, La La La…La.” Additionally, now you need to muster what strength you do have left for the New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day celebrations.
But wait! I bring good tidings of great joy…no, not THAT good tiding. That was 2 days ago. As 2015 draws to a close and the launch of 2016 draws imminently close, we as God’s called and redeemed people can use this time wisely. As we stand on the beginning of a brand new year, today is a GREAT opportunity to remember who we are and whose we are and what the sanctified, Christ-filled life of faith looks like in action. Today’s lesson from Colossians 3 helps us understand what it means and how to be a Christian…someone who believes that God has come in the new-born Christ Child. No matter how glorious – or how disastrous – your Christmas celebration may have been, no matter the state of your bank accounts after all that Yuletide gifting, the truth is that we, as people of God, are called to live a certain way not just at Christmas time but ALL the time.
In our text today, from Colossians 3, St. Paul tells us about how we are to live as God’s people as we go about normal, everyday life; what are sometimes called the seven Christian virtues. So, as we anticipate ringing in a New Year on Friday, let’s get a jump start on our new outlook for a new year, that we might truly live our faith in 2016…and always, as far as that goes.
Today’s list is an awesome one. It’s a beautiful composite of Christian living; a handbook if you will for faith in action. Picture your dearest grandparent or some other precious, elderly Christian, and I would be willing to bet you can associate 95% or more of these virtues with their very existence.
The list begins with “Compassion” or, in Greek, “guts/bowels of mercy” (v. 12). These kinds of hearts are gracious to all people, just as God in Christ manifested his grace and peace to all sinners through his Christmas incarnation, his Good Friday death, and his Easter resurrection. Then comes “Kindness” (v. 12). Kindness gives to our neighbor in need without merit or compulsion, just as Christ gave himself into death for us with no merit on our part. Next we have “Humility” (v. 12). Humility places us below others as servants of God who are not prideful or dominating. In his own humiliation, Christ took the form of a servant and humbled himself to the point of death, even death on the cross.
Our list continues with “Meekness” (v. 12). Meekness reminds us that the power to save ourselves doesn’t come from within as so many self-help gurus and books advocate today. Meekness allows us to confess that we are truly helpless when it comes to eternity. Obviously, Jesus is the perfect model of meekness; veiling complete divinity in frail human flesh. Verse 12 ends with “Patience.” Patience perseveres under the unfairness in our lives without vengeance. Our Lord certainly did this, not only in his humble and lowly birth, but through his earthly ministry, and eventually his passion and death. Jesus showed patience with people; even with those who drove nails into his hands and feet.
Our list goes on. By “bearing with one another” (v. 13), the Christian by faith bears with those who oppress and abuse us and make our lives difficult, just as Christ did. And let us not forget to “forgive” (v. 13). To forgive is to release one of debt, past or present, real or imaginary. As you can well imagine, the forgiveness of Christ is not only perfect, but boundless as well.
Remember when I encouraged you to think of a Christian role model in your life? As I described those Christian virtues, is this your grandma? Your grandpa? Your mom or dad? Some other dear Christian you know? I’ll bet it is…and you recognize them because they lived their faith; virtues given to them by Christ’s grace indwelling in their lives and manifested daily in their words and deeds by faith.
How would you summarize what you see or what you saw in them? How were they able to “keep it all together” through life’s difficulties and struggles? St. Paul says these virtues are bound together in love (v 14). “Love” is such a disposable word in society. We just “love” Facebook or that new Iphone we got for Christmas. Well, sorry…that’s not the kind of love that Paul means. Love empowers the God-given virtues of faith. Love is like a belt, wrapping around the entire Christian “package,” holding everything together, strengthening the believer to live and forgive; living out our Christian virtues in a sometimes virtue-less looking world.
All this continues ONLY as the Word of Christ continues to give birth to Christ regularly in our daily lives (v 16–17). It’s not just a one-shot deal. Dwelling in the Word of God is not just a 45 minute session every week…it’s to be our way of life. That Word includes psalms and spiritual songs sung at all times to give thanks to God and to teach the faith to younger generations. It is the Word by which Christ dwells in us. In word and deed, then, we live the virtues since God’s will has been revealed to us by this very same Word; a Word that makes us wise unto salvation.
Okay…let’s see if you’ve been paying attention today. There were 7 virtues: compassion, kindness, humility, patience, bearing with one another, forgiveness, and love. Using those virtues, how then would you handle the following situations:
- Uncle Leon came to Christmas and was his same old obnoxious self. He insulted you, talked bad about the meal and the family, berated those who gave gifts that he thought wasn’t appropriate. Everyone else was of the opinion that Uncle Leon “wrecked” Christmas. You’re a Christian, right? How are you going to handle this situation?
- At work Loren took credit for a job that you did, and as a result was given a larger bonus than you at the end of the year. You found out about it because Loren was bragging around the water cooler right in front of you. You’re a Christian, right? How are you going to handle this situation?
- Your computer at home was acting up so you went into your child’s room to use their laptop PC. Without even searching, you can clearly see that there is a large amount of pornographic images that have been downloaded and adult websites visited. You’re a Christian, right? How are you going to handle this situation?
My friends, I cannot tell you exactly what to do in any and every situation, but I pray that these virtues from Colossians 3 will be a starting point for you EVERY TIME as you live each day as God’s people, centered in Gospel, living in His grace, so that whatever you do, whether in word or deed, you do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (v. 17).
Happy New Year everyone.