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Garments of Salvation

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Garments of Salvation

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

62     For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Introduction: One of the most beloved folktales is Cinderella. One of the oldest literary renderings is a Chinese version dating to the 9th century A.D. In Europe alone over 500 variations of this tale have been recorded. I have three young daughters who adore the Walt Disney version. Their favorite part is Cinderella’s wardrobe. Several times in the story Cinderella exchanges her dirty rags for a beautiful dress: first, the dress which she makes with the help of her animal friends; then, the dress which her fairy godmother magically produces; and, finally, the beautiful wedding dress she wears when she marries the handsome prince.

Our story as Christians is a “Cinderella story,” a story of “rags to riches,” a wonderful exchange of garments, from “garments of condemnation” to “garments of salvation.” The best thing about our story is that it is absolutely true! (The daring pastor might begin by inviting forward a child who is familiar with Cinderella. Have the child summarize the story, focusing on the theme of new garments.)

     1.     Garments of condemnation

     This is the ugly part of the story, difficult but necessary for us to hear. (It is not in our text, but clearly implied.) What were we wearing before the new “garments of salvation”?

A.     No garments. Gen 3:7: “They were naked.” Gen 3:10–11: “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Because of the Fall, our “nakedness” before God produces shame, fear, and guilt. We desire to run from God and hide; or worse still, to cover ourselves with “garments” of our own making (cf. Gen 3:7b).

B.     Filthy garments. Is 64:6: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags”  In Zech 3:1–3, Joshua, the high priest, representing all Israel, stands before the Lord. He is “dressed in filthy clothes” (the Hebrew literally says “clothes with excrement”), representing the sin of Israel, and our sin as well.

Illustration:  Sleeping with someone who wets the bed.

C.     Improper garments.  We too many times are caught in a spiritual fashion nightmare of wearing the wrong cloths before God.  Like when we are poor stewards thinking God can’t provide for our needs.  Or when we accept the worldly version of truth and deny God’s clear message of salvation alone through Christ. Or perhaps when we hold a grudge against someone who has wronged us and refuse forgiveness.  Our improper garments come in all sizes and colors each custom fit for our personal sins.

     2.     Garments of salvation

A.     The Lord our God, out of sheer mercy and grace, has clothed us in Christ with “garments of salvation” and arrayed us in a “robe of righteousness.” Jesus took upon himself our “garments of condemnation” and gave us instead his “garments of salvation.” Luther called this the “joyous exchange,” which he based on passages like Is 61:10 with its imagery of the church as the bride of Christ.

B.     The literal garments which Christ wore on earth can remind us of this joyous exchange: his birth as a naked infant; wrapped by Mary in swaddling clothes—certainly not garments fit for a king (cf. Luther’s 1521 Christmas Eve sermon on Lk 2:1–14 in Luther’s Works 52:10–11); the torn, dirty, blood–stained garments of his passion (Mt 27:27–31; Jn 19:19–24).

C.     This great exchange has taken place, as Luther says, through faith, created by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. Baptism is the changing room: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:27).

     3.     Garments of celebration and proclamation

A.     Celebration: Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, “married” to him by faith, we cannot help but “delight greatly in the Lord” and “rejoice in [our] God” (61:10a). “Your grace in lowliness revealed, Lord Jesus, we adore And praise to God the Father yield And Spirit evermore; We praise you evermore” (LW 44:7).

B.     Proclamation: Our celebration naturally spills over to proclamation; we desire to share with others the good news of this joyous exchange and the wonderful wardrobe that has been purchased for all by Christ’s precious blood poured out on the cross. If the Lord himself “will not keep silent” and “will not remain quiet” for the sake of Zion and Jerusalem (62:1), how can we remain silent?

Closing appeal: How many of you received clothes for Christmas? How many of you will exchange them because they don’t fit or aren’t quite what you wanted? Good news: the greatest Christmas gift of all is the clothing you received from God through Jesus Christ, the “garments of salvation” and the “robe of righteousness” of which Isaiah speaks in our text. You will never have to exchange this clothing, which you received by virtue of Christ’s great exchange with you. These garments are tailor-made for you; they fit you perfectly, and will always be exactly what you need for every occasion. These clothes will never wear out or lose their beauty. The garments of salvation given you by Christ are guaranteed to last and to remain beautiful forever. In fact, we have yet to see or comprehend the full glory of their beauty. Put on these garments again daily (Baptism)—joyfully, gratefully, in true Christian pride (2 Cor 10:17)—and be prepared to share with others the good news of this great exchange that Christ has also accomplished for them!

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