Dressed for the Holidays

Dressed for the Holidays

Every year, as the holiday season approached, Jim couldn't shake off the lingering disappointment that had become a familiar companion. Two years ago, tensions flared over the seemingly innocent matter of when we were meeting for dinner, leading to an unexpected outburst from Uncle Bill. The following year, it was the subtle but pointed remarks exchanged between the cousins that sent ripples of discomfort through the family gathering. It felt like an unspoken tradition, a different form of conflict brewing each year. Amid these familial tensions, Jim found himself pondering, 'Shouldn't this be the time of year when we give thanks and celebrate Christ?' The disconnect between the idealized vision of a joyous holiday season and the recurring stress weighed heavily on him. He thought, 'How is it always so stressful, and how do I avoid being bothered by it?”

The Bible presents hope for people like Jim, in Colossians 3, Paul reminds the believers who they are in Christ. He reminds believers like Jim that they have died with Christ, their current life is hidden in Him, and the hopeful expectation of His appearing (Col 3:1-4). Paul’s leading conclusion for them then is to “set your minds on the things above” (Col 3:2). The question then is: how do we set our minds on Christ this holiday season? Typically during the holiday season, we give ample thought to what we are wearing. (Literally the only time of year I will even entertain the question, “What am I wearing?”) As I have heard suggested to me by one pastor/theologian, the way we set our minds on Christ is to get dressed up. Paul will go on to give two clear commands in Colossians 3:5-14 and they can be summed up with (1) take off the "old man" clothes and (2) put on the "new man" clothing.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:5-8)

Take Off the"Old Man" Clothes
In Pauline thought, the “old man” refers to the sinful nature that dominated us before we came to Christ. This includes our sinful patterns of thinking, unforgiveness, and inordinate values. Paul says to “put to death” (Col 3:5) or as the old KJV says, “mortify” the old man–a term originating from removing clothing. Before we get dressed up it is critical that we take off the old clothing we were wearing, lest we come to Thanksgiving looking like my three year old who dressed himself. This means as we prepare for the stressful holiday season where expectations run high and energy runs low; we need to prepare ourselves by taking off the old attitudes, values, estrangements, and frustrations with family. “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:8-9). We put these things away by repenting and confessing these past frustrations and annoyances prior to our family gathering. But this will be insufficient if we don’t clothe ourselves. So what do we put on?

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing 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.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Put On the "New Man" Clothing
Paul tells us to put on or to “dress”, and “clothe oneself in”, the imagery here again is like placing on a jacket for winter. The “new man” then is the regenerate man that has been transformed in the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:21-25). We are to “put on” by the Holy Spirit the Christlike virtues purchased for us by our Savior. If you approach the holidays remembering your status in Jesus Christ, you will be able to forgive the snide comment from your mother-in-law, you will be able to overlook the disappointments of unmet expectations, and you will be able to rest in Christ by the Spirit. Whether you find yourself resonating with Jim's holiday struggles or not, the call of Christ is to navigate the season with Christlike virtues. As you prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, consider the Spirit-wrought character of Christ as your attire, rather than the whiny, fussy, complaining spirit of the world.

Dane Ortlund wisely notes, “The fundamental battle as we roll out of bed each day is to settle in our hearts the deeply counterintuitive truth of Scripture: Our ‘okay-ness,’ our ‘enough-ness,’ our sufficiency, is a gift to be received, not a prize to be earned.”1 Approach the holidays with this disposition, and you'll find it truly becomes a merry Christmas.

Written by Daniel Sisler
November 22nd, 2023
1Ortlund, Dane. 2020. “2 Corinthians.” In Romans–Galatians, edited by Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Jay Sklar, X:440. ESV Expository Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

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