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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bear, Forgive, Love - December 27, 2015 - First Sunday after Christmas - Text: Colossians 3:12-17

We have seen His star. We have been to the place where He was born. We have seen the baby in the manger. We  have celebrated the birth of our King and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We are two days into our celebration of that first Christmas day and again I would encourage you, do not be like the rest of the world, continue to celebrate. Celebrate for the full twelve days of Christmas. As we continue celebrating Christmas and Jesus’ first coming, at the same time we continue to look forward to our Lord’s second coming when He will come to take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself in heaven to live with Him there forever. We even encourage His coming again as we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” and by saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!”
 
Until our Lord comes again we will remain here on His earth striving with the help of the Holy Spirit to live lives faithful to His Word. In our text for this morning we read Paul’s words to the Colossians, and his words to us, words of encouragement in living in this world. Beginning at verse twelve Paul says, “12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (v. 12-13). Here Paul is listing some of what we call the fruits of the spirit, that is the results of the faith that has been given to us through the means of grace, by the Holy Spirit. Please notice that the very first thing we hear in these verses is the fact that it is God who has chosen us. From the creation of the world God chose us to be His people. At our baptism God made us His own. He claimed us, He put His name on us, He clothed us with the righteousness won for us by Jesus on the cross. The very fact that God chose us and made us His own does not negate our response to His great love for us, rather it is His love, His choosing us which moves us to respond with righteous living.
 
It is only because of what God has done for us that we can do the things Paul is encouraging us to do, namely to have compassion, be kind, be humble, be gentle and patient. It is only because God first loved us that we can we bear with each other and forgive as the Lord forgave us. We just celebrated Jesus’ birth. Friday, yesterday, today and all this week we continue to rejoice as we remember the birth of baby Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, in Bethlehem. As we celebrate His birth with rejoicing we also sadly remind ourselves that the very reason for His birth was to take all our sins upon Himself, to suffer and die for our sins so that we might be forgiven. Why did Jesus do this? Because He loves us.
 
We read of this love picking up in verse fourteen where Paul says, “14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (v. 14). The type of love about which Paul is speaking is the kind of love that only God can have for us, that is agape love, a selfless concern for us, so much that He gave His only Son to die for us. As you have heard me describe before, that in the same way that the moon has no light of its own, but only reflects the light of the sun, so too the love our Lord has for us is the type of love we can only reflect because we have no love of our own. As the moon reflects the sun’s light so we reflect the light of Christ, the Son of God.
 
It is this love which brings about perfect unity and Christian fellowship. This perfect love is what we strive for while we are here on this earth, understanding that we will never completely reach this perfect love until we are in heaven with our Lord. Until we reach perfection in heaven we pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to lead us daily to be more and more Christ-like, more and more loving.
 
In verse fifteen Paul continues in his progression of thought by saying, “15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (v. 15).  The peace of Christ of which Paul is speaking is true peace, the true peace which comes only from God.  It is the peace we have at the cost of Jesus on the cross. It is the peace we have from knowing that we are forgiven. You know what I mean, how guilty we feel as we remember our sins.  Our guilt is overwhelming at times. Without forgiveness we would have no peace from our guilt feelings. But because of Jesus’ forgiveness we no longer need to feel guilty and without those feelings of guilt we have true peace.
 
Having true peace leads us to respond by being thankful. We were reminded at Thanksgiving and again today that true thanks comes only by kneeling at Jesus’ feet and confessing Him as the giver of all good gifts and blessings. Unless we acknowledge that Jesus is the giver of all that we have we can never be truly thankful.
 
Picking up at verse sixteen Paul encourages us and gives us hints as to how we are to thankfully respond to all our Lord has done for us. We read, “16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (v. 16-17). We respond by remembering our Baptism, by being in God’s Word, by confessing our sins and hearing His most wonderful words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven,” and by being given His body and blood to eat and drink in His Holy Supper. Paul tells us to let the Word of Christ live in us. We do this by remembering our Baptism, by taking in God’s Word, that is by reading the Bible, by having personal and family devotions, by attending Divine Service and Bible class and by begin given Christ’s body and blood in Holy Supper. We do this by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, especially in Divine Service and at home devotions.
 
It is God’s word living in us which moves us to live as witnesses of our faith. How do we live as witness of our faith? We have a wonderful example in our children. Friday or even Thursday evening for some, we watched as our children unwrapped their Christmas presents. How they beamed with excitement. How they could not wait to show and tell their friends what they got. They may even have wanted to bring their new toys to church to show their friends. They were bearing witness of their new possessions. What a wonderful example their witness is to us. We have an even more wonderful possession, the gifts of faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. How much more do we beam with excitement and anticipation as we share those gifts, the greatest gifts of life and salvation with others.
 
Today is the first Sunday after Christmas. We have “seen” God’s gift of His Son who’s sole purpose for being born was to die. Next week we celebrate Epiphany the day the Magi came bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. In five and a half weeks we will celebrate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, followed by Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and the Pentecost season. We celebrate and remember these events year after year. We do this because we need the constant reminder, lest we forget, of who we are, whose we are, and what our great God has done for us.
 
We have just read Paul’s words of encouragement for living. God’s Word is filled with words of encouragement for holy living. We remember the words of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How unfortunate that so often we hear God’s Word in the negative rather than the positive. God gives us His positive words of encouragement and instead we hear them in the negative as, “if someone does not do wrong to me I will not do wrong to them.” Or we hear them with a condition, that is we think, if someone is nice to me I will be nice back to them. God gives us His word in the positive and with action. We are to actively go out and do good to others, have compassion on others, be kind to others, be humble, be gentile and patient with others. God does not say, “if others are to you,” rather He says, “go and do.”
 
God’s Word tells us that as we are going, as we are living our lives in our various vocations we are to be His witnesses into all the world. We are to be good witnesses, showing the faith that is in us through our thoughts, words and our deeds. When we remember all that our great God has done for us, the sending of His one and only Son, the suffering and death of His Son, His resurrection from the dead, the gifts of forgiveness, deliverance from the guilt as well as the punishment for our sins, the promise of new life here on this earth, and life eternal in heaven. When we remember all these things how can we do anything else but let His gifts overflow in us and pour out to others with a great witness to our great God.
 
But, how are we to do it? In and of ourselves we are not able to bear witness, or do anything else for the Lord. It is only with the help of the Holy Spirit that we can bear witness of our great God in thought, word and deed. We give thanks that the Holy Spirit works God pleasing thought in us, that He works good words to others through us and that He works good works through us, not that we deserve any credit but, that the Holy Spirit is praised for all our good works.
 
The title of our message for today is Bear, Forgive, Love. These were the three key words to our text. Because God chose us; because God clothed us in the righteousness which Christ earned for us on the cross; because the Holy Spirit works in us we are able to bear with each other, forgive each other and love each other. And we say, all praise and thanks to you, dear Lord. To You be the glory, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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