All Dressed Up

By Rev. Heidi L. Barham |  December 26, 2021

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Colossians 3:12 – 17
It seems rather strange to think about our holiday festivities being impacted in such a profound way for a second year in a row.  With theaters and sporting events being canceled or postponed and restaurants either shutting down or switching to carry out only, we could literally find ourselves being ALL DRESSED UP with nowhere to go… again.
Now, as I thought about the subject for the sermon today, I found myself thinking back to a television show that came on TLC several years ago called, “What Not to Wear.”  The show featured two style experts named Stacey London and Clinton Kelly.  The premise of the show was that a friend or family member would nominate someone to receive a wardrobe makeover.  If they were selected, someone would begin secretly filming the person to highlight their poor decision-making skills when it came to their choice of fashion.
The unsuspecting person would then be surprised by the hosts who would show them the secret camera footage before offering them the chance to go on the shopping spree of a lifetime. 
But it did come with a catch – the person would have to bring their wardrobe with them to a designated location and they had to be willing to give up anything that the hosts deemed inappropriate (which was generally most of their existing wardrobe)… and then they had to submit themselves to a full makeover including hair and makeup… all of which was done under the direct supervision of the show’s hosts.
If the person accepted (which they almost always did) the “fun” would begin.  And after they were made over from head to toe, which was usually a very emotional experience… there would be a dramatic reveal at the end of the show that would leave the person, their family, and friends… and sometimes even the hosts… speechless. 
The transformations were usually pretty amazing and the person would return home with a new wardrobe and new sense of style that meant they would be ALL DRESSED UP… and ready to go for any occasion, whether it was for work, or play, or perhaps a night out on the town.
As I reflected on our New Testament lesson this morning, I wondered what kind of spin that show might have had back in biblical days.  Then an idea began to form… “What Not to Wear: Christian Edition,” featuring the Apostle Paul and Simon Peter as your hosts.
Just try to imagine it… a family member or friend submits the name of someone they believe needs a spiritual makeover, someone who needs to be transformed to become more like Christ…
Then, unbeknownst to the person, they will be followed by the Holy Spirit who will take note of all their poor decision-making skills, particularly when it comes to those more important life choices.
The unsuspecting person will then be surprised by Paul and Peter who will do a recap of all the things that the Holy Spirit has noted about how this person has been living and how they have been clothing themselves in bad habits and poor attitudes…
And that is when the person will be given the opportunity of a lifetime… a complete spiritual makeover… but, like the modern-day show, there is a catch… they must be willing to bring their habits and attitudes with them and allow the hosts to go through them, discarding anything that is inappropriate for them to wear in the new life that awaits them.   
I can hear Paul now, telling the person just what he told the Ephesians, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31).  And just in case the person needs some additional confirmation, I can hear Peter chiming in saying, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1).
And that is when the transformation truly begins…
Which brings us to our text for this morning, the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae.  It is there that we find a few pointers that will result in that spiritual makeover and ensure someone will be ALL DRESSED UP and ready to go.
And let me suggest, these are pointers that we should follow as well…
The first pointer is found in the first verses of our text.  Listen to them again as they are found in the Message Paraphrase:

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
Now, no offense to the hosts of the modern-day version of “What Not to Wear,” but we need to be clear… God is the ultimate style expert… and in our text, Paul describes the wardrobe God has selected for us which is appropriate for all situations. 
When we are clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength and discipline, and adorned with a spirit of forgiveness, we will never have to worry about being overdressed or underdressed… because we will be dressed just like Christ… and that never goes out of style.
Now most experts will tell you that every woman should have something in her wardrobe known as an LBD… which stands for “little black dress.”  It is considered to be the standard, all-purpose garment that can either be dressed up or dressed down, depending on the occasion.
But our text for the morning tells us that there is a different all-purpose garment that we all need… something that is more universal… something that can be worn by both women and men… not an LBD… but L-O-V-E. 
Love is what holds everything all together.  As Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, regardless of what we may do… no matter how well-meaning it may be… if we do anything without love, it amounts to nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Now, after we are ALL DRESSED UP with love holding everything together, Paul gives us another pointer, turning our attention to how we ought to live with one another… with peace and a spirit of thanksgiving.
Listen to the remaining verses of our text, again as they appear in the Message Paraphrase:
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
As Christians, we are called to live in peace with one another.  That does not mean that we will always agree on everything or that differences of opinion will suddenly evaporate… but we should be willing to work together, despite our differences.  That is what love does and that is what leads to peace.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:9 – 10).
When we get ALL DRESSED UP and layer love on top of everything, we will be equipped to live in peace and we will want what is in the best interest of others.  Living a life of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness causes a shift in our focus.  Living a life modeled after Christ turns our attention to what we can do for the benefit of others…
And by giving to others, we actually demonstrate our thanksgiving to God for all that we have been given… recognizing that we have been blessed by God so we can be a blessing to someone else.
Let’s take forgiveness as an example.
In the model prayer that Jesus taught to His disciples, we find these words, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).  Jesus went on to say, For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14 – 15).
In other words, forgiveness is a requirement… it is not simply an option.  Paul reiterates this in verse 13 of our text, where we read, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  And similarly in Ephesians 4:32, we read, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Now as difficult as it may be at times, forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone else as well as to ourselves.  We just need to remember how much God has already forgiven us. 
God’s infinite love and forgiveness is the key to us loving and forgiving others as well as loving and forgiving ourselves.  If God loved us so much that He was willing to give us His Son and our Savior, that we might have eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins, who are we to withhold love and forgiveness from anyone… including ourselves?
And before you ask, yes, there are people who have done some things that we might think are unforgivable… and yes, there are some people that we might believe are unlovable… but God says we are to love and forgive them anyhow. 
Keep in mind what we read in Romans 5:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:8, 10)
We were once God’s enemies (ouch!) but Scripture tells us that He loved us and forgave us ANYHOW…
This takes us back to the words of Jesus that we read in Matthew 6,
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Matthew 6:35 – 36).
And over in Romans 12 (19 – 21) we read:
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.   On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Many years ago, someone told me that, “The best revenge is living well…”  But what exactly did that mean, to live well?  I think the person who said it had in mind that living well meant living your best life… being successful in spite of what that other person said or did… basically forgetting about that other person and what they thought.
Now, many years later; however, living well has a different connotation for me.  It means letting go of the desire and need for revenge and being willing to forgive because we recognize just how much we have been forgiven… how much I have been forgiven,
It also means being merciful just as God is merciful. 
And living well also means loving others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).
It means being ALL DRESSED UP in those virtues that Paul describes in our text and being willing to live in peace with one another with a heart filled with thanksgiving. 
Now, the other night I heard a line in one of the endless Hallmark Christmas movies that have been running for the past two months.  This one was entitled, “You, Me and the Christmas Trees” and one of the main characters said something to the effect of, “It is just an evergreen tree.  It does not actually become a Christmas tree until you decorate it.”
And that took me back to our New Testament lesson for today… because it could be said that someone is just an ordinary person…. that they do not become a Christian until they get ALL DRESSED UP
until they get ALL DRESSED UP and clothe themselves like Paul told the Colossians, “…with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… And over all these virtues put on love” (Colossians 3:12, 14) … or like Peter said, “…with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5).
Or as Jesus told the disciples, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49).
When we get ALL DRESSED UP like that, the end result will be a transformation is more amazing than anything we could have ever imagined.  But just to be clear, the ultimate reveal doesn’t come at the end of a 30- or 60-minute television show… it comes on the day when we stand before the Lord and hear the words we should all long to hear someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21a).
So, if you’re ready… let’s go and get ALL DRESSED UP!