A sermon from Colossians 3:12-17. See PDF for the images used in the envelopes mentioned.
So what did you get for Christmas this year? (Quick survey members)
Sounds like everyone did well in the gift-getting department this year. How loved you are by your family and friends!
As a child grows into a young adult, they often see a transition in the types of Christmas gifts received. There are less toys and more practical things that are needed . . . like clothes. Clothes were always my least favorite things to get at Christmas. I mean, does a package of socks really scream, “Merry Christmas!”? You can play with socks, unless you are totally into sock puppets, which I am not. You can’t hang out with your friends and say, “Look at the socks I got for Christmas.” Clothes at Christmas, for some, can be a little of a downer. They just aren’t the most exciting gifts under the tree.
As we look at Colossians 3 today, we find out what the Lord gives us in His Word as Christmas gifts on this First Sunday after Christmas.
I have in these highly decorated gift envelopes the Lord’s presents for you today. And I’m going to have some of you open them on behalf of all of us.
So, do I have a volunteer to open the first gift envelope?
Envelope 1 –Shirt with Heart: Compassionate hearts
Oh look! Clothes for Christmas! This red shirt with a white heart reminds us of Paul’s words to begin our Epistle today, “Put on hearts of compassion.”
Jesus repeatedly had compassion on people who were in need. In Mark 6 we read, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” (Mar 6:34 ESV)
Paul describes God as the Father of compassion in 2 Cor. 1:3. Like Father, like Son, like His children who are adopted into the family of the Father through faith in Jesus. We have been gifted compassionate hearts to react to the needs of others.
Envelope 2—Gloves: Kindness
Oh, nice gloves! Clothes for Christmas! These remind us to put on kindness. Kindness is an action that flows from our compassionate hearts. We use our hands to do loving actions for people. Jesus taught us to be kind because God is “kind to the ungrateful and ungenerous,” and those who imitate Him in this “will be sons of the Most High” (Lk. 6:35.
By the grace of God in Jesus, we receive this fruit of the Spirit so that we display the kindness and compassion of the Lord to others, even leading others to repentance and faith in the Savior.
Envelope 3—Socks: Humility
Yes, someone got socks for Christmas!
What a perfect illustration of humility—socks.
Those who would walk with God must humble themselves to do so, said the prophet Micah (6:8) because God makes His dwelling by preference with those who are of a “humble and contrite spirit” (Is. 57:15). On our own, we know that there is no standing before God in our sinful uncleanness. Yet, Jesus humbled Himself and made His dwelling with us in the flesh so that He might take away our sins, making us right to stand before the Lord in humility, confessing what God has done for us in saving us.
Humility is especially appropriate for disciples of Jesus, who was “gentle and lowly in heart,” in whom we find rest for our souls (Mt. 11:29).
Envelope 4—Gentleness: Soft Sweater
Clothes for Christmas! This time a nice soft sweater!
It reminds us of gentleness, another fruit of the Holy Spirit that He produces in us. We are blessed with this gift that enables us not to give way to rage, but to respond in a manner of gentleness, humility, kindness and compassion.
Is that not how God has dealt with us—gently, kindly, compassionately—even when we sin against Him, ignore His Word and Commands, and live lives contrary to godliness?
May the Lord empower us to be gentle in our dealings with one another.
Envelopes 5—Patience (Long-Suffering): Coat
More clothes for Christmas—a nice all-weather coat—able to endure the rain and wind, snow and cold.
Patience or long-suffering—closely connected to gentleness, to be sure. Another fruit of the Spirit. It is a quality of God Himself that He gifts to us by His Spirit. The Psalmist write, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).
God put up with sin until the right time when He gifted us His Son, Jesus. On the cross He dealt with sin once and for all, purchasing our forgiveness with the blood of Christ. Through His Spirit He empowers us to be patient with one another, to endure with one another.
Envelope 6—Mutual endurance: Sneakers
These sneakers make a perfect gift for those who like to run. Runners need endurance, and they need sneakers that will enable them to run for endurance.
By His grace, through the gifts we have been given, the Lord enables you and I to live with one another, bearing with one another, enduring with one another. Yes, sometimes that endurance simply means “putting up with” someone. But we do so with patience, kindness, gentleness, humility, and compassion. That’s what the Lord has done for us. And He has lavished forgiveness on us. What a great gift of love!
Envelope 7—Mutual forgiveness: Cross Hat
The cross is the symbol of our faith—on a hat, on a necklace, on the walls of our church and homes. Our willingness to forgive each other whenever we are wronged flows from the forgiveness of Jesus’ cross. Just as the Lord has forgiven us of all our sins, so we are empowered by His gracious mercy to forgive others.
He taught us the lesson of unlimited forgiveness—seventy times seven—and showed us by example: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
By the power of the Spirit, let us not allow an unforgiving spirit to become a barrier to our own receiving the forgiveness of Christ.
Envelope 8—Love: Cross scarf
One final article of clothing for Christmas, I see. A scarf.
Love wraps up together everything we have received. We put on love which binds together our Christmas clothing from the Lord.
Love is the primary gift of the Spirit. It is the fulfillment of God’s Law: “Love God; Love your neighbor.”
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one-of-a-kind Son.”
“In this is love . . . [God] loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
God’s love to us in Christ and our response of love to Him is the very basis of our love for one another—for our neighbor, friend and enemy alike.
Love holds Christians together in fellowship under the strains of all our life together. Love checks the selfish, hard tempers which keep people apart. Love in Christ enables us to be the people of God without bitter words and angry feelings. It frees us from the ugly defects of immorality and dishonesty.
You want to see love? Look at the cross. From Jesus’ sacrificial love, we receive love. We receive the gift of clothes for Christmas—spiritual clothes from the Lord, fruits and gifts of God the Holy Spirit for our life together in Jesus.
So put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, enduring with one another and forgiving one another . . . just as the Lord forgave you, so you also forgive. Above all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond.
Christmas blessings in Jesus abound to you all! Amen.