When I was a little boy in England, I went to school as a proper little English schoolboy did. I went to school in a uniform. I wore shoes that were polished once a week. I wore grey socks, grey flannel shorts, a grey shirt and a gray and yellow striped tie. And then either a grey sweater or a gray blazer.
I actually don’t remember the blazer and it could be that I didn’t have one because my mom couldn’t afford the blazer.
When I came to Canada there were no uniforms. Canadian boys in Hampton, New Brunswick, in the sixties went to school in jeans and sneakers and t-shirts.
Now there are reasons for uniforms. Sometimes one wears a uniform because it is functional. Police officers or firefighters or hockey players or nurses wear uniforms, in part, because what they wear are needed or important for the job.
A second reason to wear uniform is for identification. It is pretty obvious in sports that teams wear uniforms so the audience and the players know which side is which. A police officer or a nurse or a minister who wears a clerical collar and a robe are all saying to the people they meet. This is who I am and this is my role.
A corollary to this is that a uniform helps the person wearing it to remember who they are and therefore to act in a certain way.
It is true that in the 1920’s Radio Announcers for the BBC in England had to dress up in formal wear to read the news. It was in part to remind them of the way they were to deliver the news with dignity and solemnity. They wore a uniform to identify with their role.
A third reason to wear a uniform is for uniformity. It is to make people the same. There are those that argue that if children all wore a uniform to school, it would mitigate against the class difference of those who spend thousands of dollars on clothes and those who cannot afford much in clothes. It is a way of making the school children equal.
So if uniforms were about function, and identity and equality…
…what might the uniform of a Christian be…
Or more importantly what is the function of being a Christian, what is the identity of being a Christian, and how should Christians be equal.
I raise this tonight, on the night we celebrate Christ’s birth because it is important that we remember that primary reason Jesus came so we could have big parties on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, so we could pig out on turkey and dressing and gravy and Christmas pudding. (and I mean no offense to pigs) Nor is the primary reason Christ came, so we could spend millions of dollars on Christmas presents.
I know I am not telling you anything you don’t know, but if we want to talk about the function of a Christian, the identity of a Christian and equality of people, it helps to know why Christ showed up in the first place…. Why Jesus was born?
There are two major schools of thought in Christianity on why Jesus was born and lived.
Both of these are found in scripture, and while not necessarily mutually exclusive, they are often found to be at some tension with each other, the tension being mostly about what the primary reason for Christ’s coming is.
To put the two positions simply they are these.
One position: the reason Christ came is to save us out of this world so we will get to heaven after we die.
Second position: the reason that Christ came is so that we and the world can be transformed here and now.
They are two different perspectives of understanding salvation.
Many people believe both of things to be true. Personally, and you certainly don’t have to believe what I believe, personally, I believe that we all came from God who is love and that in the end we will all go to God who is love and I trust in God’s infinite grace, mercy, love and forgiveness for all people, and I believe as Paul wrote that Christ will reconcile all people and all things.
But I also believe that the primary message of Jesus was not about getting to heaven when we die, but that just as he taught us in the Lord’s prayer for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
The primary reason the baby was born in a manger and lived and died and rose again…
is to show us another way to be in this world…
not a way of competition and fighting and exclusion and prejudice and the powerful taking advantage of the less powerful…
but of love and equality and peace and justice and kindness and forgiveness.
And that is why Jesus is born in poverty. And that is why Jesus taught us to love one another. And that is why Herod sought to kill him. And why some 30 years later he is eventually executed.
Because he changed the world and he changed people’s lives…
And Jesus stood up against the powerful, and against exploitation, and against injustice, and against violence, and against exclusion, and against prejudice, and against class systems, and against prejudice…
And said there was another way. And that way was to love. That way was a way of peace. That way was compassion. That way was the way of forgiveness.
And not just for your good buddies, but for all people, including your enemies.
Most of us know this too, but have real trouble putting into practice.
That is why worship is important. That is why you should probably come back every week to church. Not because God needs your money or needs your adulation. But because you need God, you need Jesus to help you put unconditional love into practice.
You need a reminder, just like those BBC announcers did, of who you are and how you are to act.
A reminder of your identity and your function and that God’s love is equally for all people.
But you don’t need to put on formal wear.
What you need to put on…
What we need to wear is Christ,
Take off lying.
Take off selfishness.
Take off greed.
Take off materialism.
Take off pride.
Take off gossip or nastiness.
Take off the negative energy.
And put on Jesus.
Our uniform is Jesus who is the Christ.
Be like Jesus, imitate Jesus, think like Jesus, act like Jesus…
Love like Jesus, forgive like Jesus…
Put on Jesus and Jesus will transform you.
One of the hymns we sing tonight has these words:
O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.
Christian scholars call the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation, which literally means taking on flesh.
The incarnation is about the divine becoming human, and so when Jesus was born, they say the divine became human, and that is why there is a story about Jesus being born of a virgin. The significance is about the divine becoming human.
But the real thing about the incarnation, about Jesus becoming human in scriptures, is that Jesus can become human in us.
We can put on Jesus, or he can be born in us, or he can live in us.
They are metaphors all to say that same thing….That God, God’s love, that Jesus can live in you.
And you can die to a selfish way of being and be born again to a way or service and love.
And the way to transform this world, is to let that happen in you… for God, for Jesus, to enter you…
And you start doing what Jesus did…
You love, you care, you forgive, you practice peace. You work for equality and justice.
You be Christ to others…
Let your uniform be Jesus. Let your life be Jesus.
An 85 year old couple, having been married almost 60 years, die in a car crash. They had been in good health the last ten years, mainly due to the wife’s interest in health food.
When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite with Jacuzzi. As they “oohed and aahed”, the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost.
“It’s free,” Peter replied, Remember, this is Heaven.”
Next they went out back to see the championship golf course the home backed up to. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on Earth. The old man asked, “What are the green fees?”
“This is heaven,” St. Peter replied. “You play for free.”
Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out. “How much for lunch?” asked the old man. “Don’t you understand yet?” St. Peter asked. “This is heaven. It’s free!”
“Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods?” the old man asked timidly.
“That’s the best part…you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven. The old man looked at his wife and said, “You and your damn Kale smoothies I could have been here ten years ago!
We all could have been in heaven here on earth, years ago.
By putting on Christ. By letting him be born in us.
By loving, accepting, including, forgiving, reconciling and practicing peace. Amen.