December 30, 2018: 1st Sunday after Christmas

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, prolong our Christmas joy!  Keep our hearts full of the uplifting happiness of this season!  And enable us with the Spirit’s power to say and show the forgiving love that You brought us in the manger.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, GOD IN HUMAN FLESH COME TO SAVE OUR SOULS!

TEXT:  Colossians 3: 12-17

Dearly Beloved By the Christ-Child:

The past few weeks have been a blur, followed by this “ahhh” time after Christmas.  Yes, the presents are all unwrapped and the toys played with.  The feasts are all consumed and even the leftovers are gone.  You haven’t had to rise early and get ready for extra services at church.  Sleep has been needed, and you’ve had a chance to catch-up on a bit of it.  So unless you’re planning a big New Year’s bash, this time has literally been your “ahhh” time, hasn’t it?

I’d like to bottle it!  I’d like to keep the warm glow that exists within alive all year long.  And by God’s grace, you and I can!  St. Paul tells us how in our lesson.

I

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

On Christmas you received many gifts.  But God’s gift of the Christ-Child in the manger was the best of all.  That’s because it was a gift of power, a gift that has the inherit power to create and recreate a warm glow in your heart each and every day.  By now all of you that our Christmas gift was quite singular: a puppy named Tessa.  It was a “living gift” to each other.  To be sure, like all human gifts, she has brought us great joy and also great frustration at times.  We always have to keep tabs on her.  We cannot put her on the shelf and come back at a later time to play.  Even when locked safely in her kennel, we have to make sure she isn’t chewing on a towel and ingesting cotton strings.  So, we go to bed bone tired, but wake up wondering what smiles she will bring with the dawn.

This may seem like a trite comparison when talking about the ultimate Gift that keeps on giving, but it’s not.  For Jesus is always with us, too.  He’s always there to dole out smiles when we’re overwhelmed.  Jesus keeps us young at heart, where it counts, even when our bodies feel old.  And just like Tessa is contagious—as one member said a couple of weeks ago when Debra Ann brought her over after church: “She’s the center of attention.”—So, Jesus is always with us and is the Real Center of Attention!  That’s because He creates the virtues Paul speaks of in our lesson.  And then those virtues keep rolling over and paying out constant dividends!

II

Kindness and compassion are never out of style.  Sharing another’s pain and comforting them builds everyone up.  Humility, or the ability to not take yourself too seriously, to see your problems and laugh at the silliness of your pride, humility never goes out of style and never will.  Gentleness and patience are in short supply in our hectic world, but greatly appreciated by all when given.  It’s hard to stay angry when someone is gentle and patient back.—Just as Christ has been toward each of you.

At the heart of keeping Christmas joy alive is: forgiveness.  My great friend, Steve, taught 1st graders for 30+ years until he recently retired.  He’s a Christian and it showed every day.  He bore everything those little ones threw at him.  He never got angry with them.  He never lashed out at them.  He just focused on developing work-arounds to their problems at home and at school.  And it worked!  Those kids loved him.  Like Paul says: he didn’t hold on to grievances, he forgave them.  Forgiveness lets go of hurts.  It doesn’t bottle them up inside so that they then explode.  Steve is an “ahhh” kind of individual.  His life reflects this.  And it’s all because Christ forgave him on the cross and such forgiveness never dies because Christ doesn’t die—He lives forever.

This kind of lifestyle doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  It doesn’t occur merely through human will.  It is a gift from God Almighty.  A gift that began paying dividends to us while still in the manger.  And the motive behind this Ultimate Christmas Gift was love.  Unconditional, pure love.  In the church we call it: grace.  And where such love is present, perfect unity with everything good in life exists.

III

God’s Church is home to an eternal “ahhh” moment.  When you’re a kid, much like my puppy Tessa, you play hard, get bored with the days after Christmas, and then become overtired, grumpy, and look for trouble.   But as you get older, you savor these moments more and more and are grateful if they become prolonged.  Peace in the household, peace at work, peace in your body and soul—ultimately they all stem from Peace with God.  So, Paul addresses, really prays for just that: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

What better way to begin a new calendar year than that?!  You really can prolong the “ahhh” moment when you let the Baby Jesus settle your heart.  For everything truly good in life—gentleness, kindness, patience, peace, love, joy, thankfulness—they all come from Him, emanate from Him, and pull us back into His embrace. So, keep asking Him for these gifts and you’ll soon find that He really does deliver—for an entire lifetime and beyond!  Amen