When I was just 4 years old, the greatest television show to ever capture the imagination of a child made its debut. ‘Batman’ was designed to be hip and cool with a slightly serious edge. It had bold color, neat costumes and creepy looking bad guys. It aired twice a week because the first half of the program was always a cliff hanger and you had to watch the second half to see what happened.
The series was a huge success at first but would only last three seasons. Over time, it became more ridiculous and even more campy. Instead of a serious show it became a strange hippie, and jive talking show. It modeled the popularity of ‘The Monkeys’ and helped give birth to ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In’.
Now, if you have ever seen the old Batman TV show, you will never forget some of Robin’s crazy lines, like…
Holy crystal ball, Batman! I didn’t see that coming?
Or, Holy strawberries Batman! We’re in a jam! And finally…
Holy Kleenex, Batman, it was right under our noses and WE BLEW IT!
I loved it… but, hey, you have to remember I was only 6 when it went off.
My mom made me a Robin doll and eventually even made me a Robin outfit for Halloween. And boy did I feel like a superhero when I put on that suit! If you had asked me at 6, I believed that I could have saved the world back then.
I suppose there is some truth in the saying that the clothes make the man. And, that you don’t know what another person thinks unless you walk a mile in their shoes. (or their suit)
In the movie ‘The Santa Clause’, Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, gets a chance to see what it is like to be Santa. After Santa falls off the roof, he disappears and only his suit is left behind. Looking for some ID in the clothes, Scott finds a card that tells him, “If Something happens to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do.”
Scott does not want to wear the old Santa suit, but his son Charlie convinces him to do it. As Scott puts it on, he complains, “You never know where this thing has been, a thousand malls.” Then, suddenly, Scott finds himself becoming Santa Claus.
Later in the movie, Scott finds out that putting on the suit means changing in more ways than he imagined. It changed how he looked; he grew a beard that couldn’t be cut off, he gained weight and his hair turned white.
It also changed how he thought and it affected how he acted. He became more understanding, more loving and even forgiving. All that happened when he put on the suit.
Christmas, we say, is the time of miracles.
Yet, most of us are not so gullible to believe that changing the surface will change the person inside. Appearance is only one side of the equation. We all know people, who look one way but act another.
In the movie ‘The Santa Clause’, all Scott Calvin had to do was put on the suit and he was changed. He never really had a choice. Real life is much different.
Back in 1999, the Indianapolis Star carried a story about a Department Store Santa Claus that didn’t behave like Santa ought to behave.
Apparently, a mother had placed her 1-1/2 year-old child in Santa’s lap only to have the child begin to cry. The mother suggested to “Santa” that he the child might quiet down if he put his arm around him, and at that remark, Santa Claus got a little belligerent with her.
When the mother started to pick up her baby, the man in the red suit said, “Was it worth it? Was it worth it for you to torture your child for a picture? You must be an evil person.”
And when the woman told the man she planned to file a complaint, he leaped from his chair and said, “You can complain about me if you want, but I am Santa Claus. I am the best person in the world. I am good, far better than you.”
At that, she told him ‘he should not be around children’, and then he became really angry. He started to rip off his clothes. He took off his beard, his wig, his coat, and his belt and tossed them to the ground.
Some stunned parents covered their children’s eyes. Santa, not surprisingly, was promptly arrested and led away by security guards, to the horror of all the children nearby. It is hard to tell the kids, that a guy in a Santa suit isn’t really Santa; but we all know that the Real Santa doesn’t act that way!
The Apostle Paul confronted this type of situation over and over again with the cities he visited. People come gratefully to Christ at his invitation, but…after he left, the converts, begin living in ways that were contradictory to the faith. So, Paul reminded them that they must leave their old practices and ways behind and put on Christ.
What exactly does it mean to put on Christ? What exactly is the look of a Christian? What exactly does it mean to be set apart? Is it merely a metaphor to challenge us or is there more involved?
Being saved is great. In fact, it’s vital. But it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning. There’s so much more that will fulfill us, satisfy us, make us joyful and complete us. So, if we are renewed in Christ, why do we go through life as Christians and yet appear not much different than our non-Christian friends?
Pastor Ed Dobson wanted to take on the role of living like Christ completely. He wanted to walk the walk and talk the talk. So, he took on the challenge to live like Jesus for a year. He is the author of ‘The Year of Living Like Jesus’.
Dobson grew a beard, changed his diet (by eating kosher) and changed some of his bad habits. A friend commended him on his decision than asked, “Are you also going to do the hard stuff to; like follow Jesus in his pain and suffering? Are you going to repent, forgive, love your enemies, give away everything that you own and speak the truth; even when it isn’t popular?”
It wasn’t long before he realized that being a Christian goes much deeper than what we see and hear on the outside. Being a person of faith isn’t about speaking a few words no matter how important they are but more about living a new lifestyle.
The Christian life is about more than attaching ourselves to the name of Jesus. It is about submission, sacrifice, practicing the right life skills and experiencing a re-birth like we have never known before.
Professor and Psychologist Dallas Willard calls this journey “the transformation of the Spirit”. To take on Christ, he says, we must do it on six levels;
1) The first is the soul or spiritual level. We must engage God in regular prayer, study and by seeking God’s will. We need to really know him.
2) We must also allow God to change our social or relational selves. Who we hang around with matters! How we behave in relationships is important; it helps define us.
3) We must be rational and clean up our thought life. We can choose to avoid unhealthy T.V. programs, video games and negative thought patterns. What we put into our minds, he explained, does affect us. Then, we must ask ourselves, “What other bad habits do we need to break?”
4) We begin to make healthy choices. It is good to ask ourselves, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ It’s a step in the right direction. Also, we must ask ourselves, “What are the consequences of my actions” and “Would I be embarrassed, if ours found out what I did in secret”.
5) We must ask ourselves, am I in control of my feelings or are they in control of me? And just because I feel a certain way, doesn’t necessarily make it right.
6) Finally, we must ask ourselves, ‘Am I in control of my body? Am I honoring Christ with it? And in what ways do I harm it that need to change?’
He said, “When we get all of these things in harmony with God, then we are on a track ‘to live like Jesus’.
Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, ‘That the true test of putting on Christ is about how you live and the faith you possess between Sundays.
Molecular Biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn is the author of several books on stress and change. He writes, “When we are alert and aware of each thought and action, and fully present in it, it changes our attitudes, our functions, our immune systems, our brains and eventually our bodies”. When we take care of what is important inside, it changes our soul, mind and bodies on the outside.”
The costumes we wear and the roles we play are made to be put on and taken off – but putting on Christ is supposed to be the beginning of a permanent and life-altering transformation.
Jesus is the one ingredient (think relationship), that can change our entire being. Once He is allowed in, we cannot help but be changed; that is, once we truly submit to His spirit and will.
The problem is, we often close off areas in our life and try to keep him out. The tough news for us is that we must allow him in and give him total freedom to change us on every level. That takes faith and sacrifice. Jesus showed us how, he fully submitted to the will of the father. The Good News is that God is patient.
When we give ourselves fully to Jesus, that is when we finally just stop wearing the suit and become like Christ. Let me ask you, ‘How is your faith walk going?’
Are you changing spiritually, relationally, in thought, in action, in word, in choices, emotionally and in honoring your body? And what places do you still need to submit and grow?
Christmas is the place of miracles because God can still take the lost, the misguided and the stubborn and turn them into new beings. It starts with putting on the name of Jesus and only ends when we are truly transformed, from the inside out.
Your assignment is…to put on Christ this Christmas. And if you have already accepted him and taken on his name, go ahead and let him into every hidden place in your life. Imagine how the world would change if we did.
At Christmas, Jesus left heaven to be born on earth. But his true home was to be within our hearts. Will you welcome him in? There is no better time than the present. Amen.