Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Kenneth H. Greene at A.P. Shaw United Methodist Church in the District of Columbia.
We can usually tell what kind of work people do by the way that they dress. The world knows how to dress for success. And on how we dress, Isaiah [61: 10] has something to tell us this morning: “I gratefully rejoice in the Lord, [for] God has clothed me with a garment of salvation, he has covered me with a robe of righteousness.”
We must be clothed in holy attire, and not just on Sunday morning. We don’t have any problem dressing up on Sunday, when folks don’t see us. When we leave the church and go on our jobs, ride the bus, or get in our car, have we changed our garments? I heard the other day about an angry motorist, still in his church clothes. The other driver told me, “I just witnessed what I thought was a Christian. What he said to me was not becoming of a Christian.”
Clothes make a statement on who we are or who we’d like to be. So during Christmas, some children want to have power. They say, “Mama, get me a Superman suit.” Then you see their little characters change. They put on the Power Rangers, the ninja, and they swing their hands like this. Even Batman.
A columnist the other day was talking about the clothes that will be fashionable for the next millennium. I don’t have a problem with a lot of styles. I try to be very much in style myself. I work hard at it, you know. But if you say you are a Christian young lady, you don’t go to work in the morning with a neck line down here, or sit down with a dress that goes way up here. Now, that’s my opinion, and it’s a little old-fashioned talk… . Men, I’m talking about you, too. You don’t wear your britches so tight.
The columnist’s advice was you dress not necessarily for position, but you dress for what you would like to acquire. If you want to move up, you act and dress like it. You get to work before the time, and leave a few minutes after closing. Don’t work three minutes and drink coffee 10 minutes… .
So here in the Scripture we read of how God clothes us. We are getting ready for the Advent season, we are preparing to decorate the church to be beautiful, and we will dress our children up and make ourselves look nice. But what about dressing up our souls? Clothes do not make the person. If you are a devil, you are just a dressed-up devil. If you are a liar, you are just a good-looking liar.
We read Isaiah, and he says, “Glory, glory to God.” A gracious God, the God of all people, and a God who does not leave our imperfections exposed. God covers us with His garments. He covers us with the clothes of salvation, the robe of righteousness. He dresses us up spiritually so we can be ready for this evil world.
Paul says, “Put on Jesus Christ. Make no provision for your fleshly desire, but put on the clothing of Christ.” God sent His son into the world as a naked infant, so He could clothe all who were lost. Church, we need to tell folk on this Advent season, we need to thank God for dressing us up. When we said “yes” to God, and become obedient to His will and become His servants, He dresses us up. He gives us the wardrobe of salvation. He says, “Go tell everybody that love is among us.”
Brothers and sisters, if you love the Lord, then like John the Baptist [John 1: 19-28] you have to “cry out in the wilderness,” cry out in the streets, in the apartment and even on your job and at the bus stop. He lives, I know Jesus lives. Isaiah tells us this morning that God has already clothed us with the garments of salvation.
We have an obligation, when He clothes us up, for our attitudes to change. We were asleep in sin, and He woke us up in righteousness. We need to tell boys and girls: “Don’t put your trust in drugs. They only bring you down, down, down.” … When you’ve met Jesus, when you’ve dressed up, let it show in your relationships. Christmas is not about us, it is about the Savior.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Neil Smith at Faith Presbyterian Church in Alexandria.