Attire – 1 Samuel 2:18-21, Colossians 3:17-21

The best joke in our Christmas bon bons yesterday’s was this:

Q: What’s the difference between a well-dressed person on a bike and a poorly dressed person on a uni-cycle?

A: Attire

You could ask the same about the readings this morning. Q: What is the thread that holds together the readings we heard this morning together?

A: Attire

Our Old Testament reading was a very short one. According to the commentaries, it is a difficult passage to preach, but following the clothing thread it seems fairly obvious. The linen robe or ephod that Hannah made for Samuel every year was patterned on the ephod worn by the priest. It was made of the same material that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple. In other words, putting on the linen ephod reminded the wearer – and those who saw it – that this person was dressed in holiness.

I like the detail that it was Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who made this coat. It is her belief in compassion, God’s compassion on her, her practice of kindness, her humility and meekness, her patience, and overall her love for this child, that go into making this coat that is holy.

Our New Testament reading describes what we, as Christians, should be wearing. We are to be clothed in compassion, a deep empathy with one other; kindness, a basic, even fundamental Christian attribute, a clear fruit of the Spirit; humility, the quality of listening, respecting, engaging, and honouring another; meekness, the dialling down of personality in cases where others need space to express themselves, and patience, the capacity to wait – not to hurry – not to force – others around us. And to put these clothes on, we might need to take off others – selfishness and greed, anger, pride, and impatience. We, like Samuel, are to be dressed in holiness, clothed in the clothes of our high priest, Jesus.

And the passage is realistic about people and communities. There will be disagreements. There needs to be forgiveness. Just as Samuel’s mother brought a new linen ephod every year, we need to be constantly resizing our holiness garments.

And the most important thing in our wardrobe is love. Love binds everything together. “Bind” is a familiar term in Greek for a simple band, brooch, or fastener, and it appears in other writing. Plato’s Republic uses this same term to describe how respect for law binds together communities. But the believing community is to be bound together by love, bound together by seeking the peace of Christ, bound together by letting the word of Christ live in us – which if there is one word – is love. Love will make our whole outfit work!

And, like our third story, if we are clothed like our high priest, if we dress like Jesus did, we will also want to cloth and warm and shelter others. This is what Angela does in the story.

Perhaps we need to let Jesus be like Hannah for us this Christmas; come to us again with a fresh set of clothes – a fresh outfit of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and most of all love – so we look just like him – so we can be just like him.

I promised you half a sermon – and so I’ll stop there – but I will leave you with one of our wonderful Advent reflections from this year – Ella Whatley’s reflection on what the clothes of love look like:

I do not come from a Christian or a kind family. The list of life-long offenses taken and rigidly held is long and painful. When I consider how I am to love, I often meditate on these verses, to ‘put on’ love means I must do it on purpose. But what does love look like?

When loving people who are easy to love, (like my children), it is like a periwinkle-blue gauze coat that, when slipped over any garments, transforms the body instantly. The ‘lining’, woven imperceptibly through the fabric, is made of fine hairs from my own skin. It fits perfectly and is so very comfortable.

But what of those whom I find so difficult to love, those who offend me or who remain offended by me? What does that garment look like that? For me it is a donkey-brown felted coat that looks heavy. I do not want to put it on, (though I am shivering in the bone-chilling place called ‘I-am-rightdom!’)

When wrestling with this conundrum, I consider that God’s son, in all his majesty, chose to clothe himself in the most sensitive of all materials, human skin, baby soft. He did this for no other reason than for love.

Ahhh, so this is what love looks like…

And I think, perhaps the coat will not be quite so heavy after all, and if it is, so what. But when I finally put it on, I discover a lining of exquisite beauty. It is silken with criss-cross patterned bands of cherry red and cobalt blue, and woven into this fabric is the word Forgive, not once but repeatedly. And when I wear this coat, I discover that it is in-fact made from ‘smart fabric’, brand new technology that not only keeps me warm but radiates warmth to all those around me.

I wonder, may I ask you, (without giving offence!), do you, like me, have a coat like this in your wardrobe, that you need to put on this Christmas?