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ENTER THE NEW YEAR – WITH JESUS!
Presented December 30, 2012 at Parkside Community Church, Sacramento CA. A video of this sermon is available at http://youtu.be/r5swX6EQgLU.

Colossians 3:12-17
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 the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Paul was in prison when he wrote his letter to the Colossians in 62 AD, most likely in Rome.  Historically, Colossae was a small-potatoes city, in what is now modern-day Turkey and at that time was part of the Roman Empire.  But then again, what wasn’t?

Its population was mixed – the once-great Phrygians who were native to the area for centuries, Greeks, Syrians and Jews, to name a few. We can consider Colossae to be the Parkside Church of its time. Within our walls, you would be hard-pressed to find a more diverse group of people.  I would list the different types we have here, but just look around and see. But remember, while you are looking around and saying “Look at all these different types,” all those “different types” are looking at you and saying, “Look at all those different types.”  Yet we are one in Christ and need to see beyond the outer-trappings to view the Christ that is in each of us.

When Paul writes, he does not know that the Colossians are NOT doing the things he says; he is saying that they SHOULD be doing these things. It is the same when someone is given the privilege to preach. I cannot stand here and say, “You are not compassionate. You are not kind. You are not patient.”  Well, that’s not entirely true. I can point to one of us and make these accusations. I know one person here who, despite his best efforts thus far, is failing Christ. Stop looking around – I’m right here.

The problem with writing a sermon – the only problem, really – is that I can’t stand up here telling you what the Good Book says and how we should apply it to ourselves, knowing that I am not living up to that expectation.

I am not compassionate, I am not kind. I am not patient.  As a Christian, I fail miserably. Now, I’m not out there physically hurting people or cheating individuals or openly flaunting the Commandments.  And I hope some of you are saying, “Oh, Jim – you’re not that bad.”  Some of you are saying that, right?  But I am nowhere near meeting the expectations Christ has put before me as a follower of him. So why should I bother to try and be a Christian?  I can be a nice guy and not need to follow Jesus’ teachings. I can donate to charity, help old ladies across the street, take in stray animals. So why bother with the added stress of trying to meet Jesus’ demands of us?  Because I believe in the Creator God. I cannot – intellectually, emotionally, philosophically or spiritually – deny the existence of God, the “In the beginning…” God, who created the stars and the moon and whales and the snow and the Christmas Trees and the lizards and the sparrows and who created us and everything that is everything.

So if I believe in the Creator God, why do I have to believe in Jesus? Why not be a devout Jew and the many good things that come with that faith?

Because I believe this Creator God had a plan for us.  That plan was to bring us back to the God we know and who has, for us, a universal truth – we are loved.

God saw that we needed evidence of that universal love, so God sent a Messiah – a Christ – to be born of Mary, to unite us with the Creator.

Historically, there is no question that a son was born of Mary, wife of Joseph. As a prophet and a rabbi – a teacher – Jesus of Nazareth is recognized by many non-Christian faiths. But that birth, which we just celebrated last week, is of more than a good man who lived 2000 years ago.  Paul believed Christ to be of universal significance because Christ saved us from our alienation from God. Christ embodied love and forgiveness and peace. A love and forgiveness and peace that is available to all of us. But do we exhibit love? Do we forgive those whom we perceive as offending us? How do we live a life of peace through Christ?

 Did you get new clothes for Christmas? New socks, maybe, or the bane gift of children – new underwear? As we celebrate the birth of our Christ and look toward a new year on the Christian calendar, we must wear our new clothes – and our old clothes – in a new skin – a skin dedicated to living in the body of Christ.

How should we strip off our old clothes – our old self – and put on new clothes – a new self?

If you’ll forgive the theatrics

(pick up overcoat and put it on)

We do this by wearing a cloak of love, covering us completely.

(Put on gloves)

We put on gloves of forgiveness and reach out our hand in friendship.

(Put on a hat)

Above all, wear the halo – or hat, if you will – of peace.  Let all who see us know that “here comes a person of peace – a person who knows, believes, shares and lives the Good News.” Wear those clothes.

One way to do so is to put on the coats and clothes of the good people in your life; not just Jesus, but those whose Christian attributes you would like to be your own. Dress as they dress; act as they act.

And more importantly, be the kind of person from whom others would like to borrow your coat.

Start your New Year with Christ and let him lead you to Compassion, Kindness, Humility, and Patience.  Act Justly and Show Mercy. And Love. Love God. Love your neighbors. Jesus tells us to love – and forgive – our enemies. Live in the harmony of Christ. Give thanks.  Give thanks in prayer. Give thanks in song. Show your grateful love to God

in everything you say,

and everything you do.

Do these things – and have a Happy New Year.