A Reading from the Epistle to the Colossians, the Third Chapter:
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God our Creator through him.
Holy Wisdom, Holy Word
It is indeed a delight to be here together on this first Sunday of Christmas.
Earlier this week, we had a lovely service to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus, and it was a delight to see many of you there. Today, we’ll continue the celebration of the Nativity, by considering the impact of Jesus’ journey to earth.
In the reading today from Colossians, the Author reminds us to clothe ourselves with >“compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”>>>>
In the Gospels,
the spiritual reality of the feast of the Nativity becomes incredibly clear :
God put on human clothes, and experienced the messiness of human existence. The unsanitary mess of being born in a stable. Causing the discomfort and distress of arriving while his parents itinerant.
This is the wonder of the Christmas message,
God not only appears on the mountain of Sinai, to Moses delivering the law.
God does not only whisper into the ear of the prophets and political advisors, like Isaiah, Ezekiel and Nathan.
God comes to us and puts on human clothes.
God puts on the humility of human poverty and joins us in our human journey.
God is born a baby, in what is, for many of us, unimaginable poverty, this Baby shows humans the ways of God, and how to relate to God, our everlasting parent.
Jesus, appears on earth, and begins the process of giving birth to the Commonwealth of God.
In the reading today from Colossians, we are reminded that clothes are an important part of our existence on this world. Clothes change how society reads us, and how society treats us.
The person who is unable to wear clothes that fit, or whose clothes betray that they experience homelessness go through life in vastly different ways than the person who wears clothes that fit, and appears clean and well rested. An Ironed shirt, or freshly washed dress can be the edge up needed to move forward in this world.
God’s story in this season, and in our text, teaches us that while our outer appearances are what those around us see, the character in our heart provides the most important clothing.
For some of us here, the memory of Leelah Alcorn, a white transgender teenager rings fresh in our memory. Leelah left a graphic and disturbing suicide note describing the ways her parents used professionals and others to prevent her from having community, connections, and places to go.
How her parents prevented her from access to the clothes of her heart.
By the time the letter was posted in a public way, Leelah had ended her life by vehicular impact – in the wee hours of the morning a year ago tomorrow. Hold on to this for a moment – I’ll be coming back.
The Christmas story reminds us of the alternatives we have. Jesus reminds us that just as God can put on human clothes, we can put on clothes that bring us closer to the Divine. God reminds us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience >>>>> and love.
During the past weeks as I have prepared this sermon, I have seen how I have so much growth to do. Do I get frustrated at the fact I have to wait almost a month from when classes end to see grades? Do I lash-out sometimes at people who with the best intentions make mistakes? Do I place my wants and desires above the needs of those who I oppress? >>>>>> Do I harm my body when sometimes it slows me down? The answer to each of these questions, for me, is yes.
God’s promise in Christmas is that the Commonwealth of God is coming. The Commonwealth of God has been born on earth. In this commonwealth, God has broken through to each of us, in the Word made flesh, Jesus, and in the Word contained in the sacred text of Scripture. In this Commonwealth, we are free to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.
By clothing ourselves with the clothes of God,
we join God in Her work of liberation.
We bring about the commonwealth of God
by pointing out the new reality He brings.
By allowing Christ to reign in our hearts, we are attuned to where God has begun working in our midst, and we are free to Join God in that work. Each great work of God begins with seeing God working – be it in the academic discourse of late medival Germany, the longing for spirituality in the gay and lesbian community of San Francisco, or in the birth of God’s own Child.
Remember Leelah, who I mentioned earlier? She ends her note in the following way – slightly edited: “My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s messed up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”
Leelah’s death was one of many deaths which lead to the creation of the TransLifeline. Leelah’s plea also lead to the movement to Fix Society, taken on by those working toward transgender liberation. This year has seen the movement for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender liberation make huge strides – including marriage for two people regardless of sex, the great growth in publicity of transgender celebrities, such as Janet Mock, La Verne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner.
Leelah’s wish to fix society, and God’s wish for the already and not yet Commonwealth are fully connected. In God’s Commonwealth, we are each welcomed // and embraced // and celebrated // as beloved children of God. In Leelah’s hope for Society, and God’s Commonwealth, we are invited to wear the clothes of our heart, both the compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience of our hearts, and the dresses, jeans, button downs, belts, skirts and earrings of our bodies.
The Author of Colossians call for us to clothe our hearts is Leelah’s call to Fix Society. The homeless, the poor, the people who are dying in the streets need God’s liberation, and until we are all free, none of us can be the fullness of who we are created to be in God’s Commonwealth.
Thankfully, the work is not yours alone, nor is it mine alone, but it is ours together. No one person, or even one group of people can bring about this change in our world – It is indeed, the work of God, but together, when we join God in this work, great things can happen, and the commonwealth of God becomes ever more present with us here and now.
Listen for God?
Let’s Make this happen.