I still shudder at the thought of those endless piles of misfit gifts; many with shards of wrapping paper still clinging to them.
For me, there’s only been one gift I’ve ever received that I wanted to send to those piles—and that gift was a pair of Snoopy pajamas.
I’ve always loved the Peanuts gang—but I was 21 when I got these. All I could think about was my college dorm-mates seeing me wearing them. I would never live it down.
I didn’t want to stand out from everyone else as the guy with Snoopy pajamas.
But do we (as Christians) stand out from everyone else?
Over the last several months, our adult Sunday school class has been discussing different religious faiths—and one topic that’s often come up is the way in which the people of certain faiths stand out from the crowd. We’ve spoken of Muslims who stop whatever they are doing, to pray—five times per day.
We’ve spoken of Amish and the members of Mennonite communities who dress very plainly, in clothes they’ve often made themselves.
For our part, we may wear crosses—or even Christian T-shirts on occasion...
But ultimately, how would someone really know that we are as people of Jesus Christ? And how eager are we to stand out from the crowd?
It’s very easy to treat our faith and our relationship with God strictly as a matter of the heart, so that it is private and deeply personal.
And because of that, there may be very little that sets believer apart from everyone else.
But Jesus is not about to be contained only in our hearts—because a human heart cannot contain him. Jesus is born to be known—and not just in our hearts. He is in the world, making himself known. The more we know him, the more he will make himself known through us to an unbelieving world. Our second lesson from Colossians shows us how...
It all begins with God’s claim of our selves. We are God’s chosen ones; claimed in baptism. We are born to be holy; born to be beloved. Faith begins by knowing whose we are.
It is then that we come to see God in all that we have and all that we are and all that God promises. This is thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an act of faith through which we see God in every good gift we receive and acknowledge God as the giver. Prayer is the first way—and the fundamental way—that we do this. But once again, we cannot treat it as a private act. Thanksgiving is a verb—and we express thanksgiving in public. When you eat in a public place, do you pray over the meal? Do you take your conversations with family, friends, and strangers as opportunities to testify to God’s goodness in your life?
Then, when you see a neighbor in any kind of need, what do you do? Do you allow for God’s goodness to go beyond you?
We all know from bitter experience how hard it is to see God in our darkest days. Our world is desperate for signs that God is here—even those who wouldn’t even call themselves believers. This is why Jesus gives us his holy clothing: the clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and especially forgiveness.
How rare it is that a person will ever receive these from someone else. But a little bit of kindness and a little bit of care can change everything for the better.
If we, who experience God’s goodness, use our blessings to bless others, God becomes a greater and more powerful reality. It is in our acts of mercy and forgiveness that we come to see just how good God is and how blessed we really are. People won’t just notice Christ in us—they will be drawn to the Christ in us. We shall become as Jesus was in his ministry; a giver of strength and healing and unconditional love. Our lives shall become as iron-clad proof of the goodness of God, by how we live and what we do. And there will be no mistaking who we are and whose we are...
Today God’s Word invites us into a life of gratitude, because God is in every morsel of food that nourishes our bodies; every garment that keeps us warm; and especially in every person who blesses us with their compassion, their kindness, and their forgiveness. Thanksgiving is the gift of seeing Christ in all that is wonderful and good. So make your gratitude public; literally wear God’s goodness in your words and deeds. Let the Christ you see and know be seen and known in you. Let your every choice, every action, every word glorify him.
All shall know that God is good when we, with our words, our deeds, and our very lives, make it real. We shall become as One Body, to endure the hardships; and to overcome suffering and evil with forgiveness and grace.
And God’s peace will come for all to enjoy.