God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might  become the righteousness of God.   2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

This past Christmas season I heard about people attending “Ugly Christmas Sweater” parties. The invitation asks guests to wear a sweater they had perhaps received as a gift, but considered too ugly to wear under normal circumstances. The party’s host even awards prizes for the ugliest attire. In this day and age, most gifts we don’t like go back to the store shortly after Christmas, to be exchanged for something we will likely use. So, there’s no good reason to have a drawer full of ugly sweaters to begin with.

This Lenten season we are reminded our lives are full of spiritual “ugly sweaters” – those deeds and thoughts we know are too sinful and embarrassing to show in public. We do our best to hide them, or pretend they are not in our closet. It’s not enough to just bury them in the back of the drawer. We need a way to exchange them for something we are glad to wear.

Today’s verse captures the wonderful message of the Good News of Jesus Christ made available to each of us. In this description, we find God’s Great Exchange. In Christ, all my sin and ugliness was laid on him, and I can exchange it all for God’s own righteousness. Righteousness is a word that speaks of us having the right relationship with God. Not hiding from him or running from him, but knowing we are loved, protected and provided for. If my sinful history (and future, too) is replaced with a right relationship toward God because of what Christ did, I can live a life of peace and joy in Christ. I don’t have to bury stuff, I just exchange it by faith that God means what He says. God really intends to have me live with new clothing – a robe of righteousness that is dazzlingly beautiful in God’s sight.

So, this season realize that repentance is the act of agreeing with God that we have ugly sweaters in our closets, but God has assigned Christ the task of wearing all our ugliness and bearing God’s just wrath that must be expended against that sin. In the Great Exchange we are freely clothed in beautiful garments no one would ever dream of hiding in a closet. Display the righteousness of God in all you do, because it’s freely yours.

Prayer: Father, I thank you that Jesus was willing and able to bear my ugliness and take my place under your wrath. I thank you that because of your great love, I am now treated as one who is fully right with you. Help me to be joyful in living as your child. By the Holy Spirit, continue to show me the ugly sweaters I hide, and exchange them for Your beautiful righteousness. Let me see myself wearing your beauty, and shining with heavenly light in a dark world. Use me to help others take advantage of your Great Exchange. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Steve Burke

Jackson Chapel UMC

Frederick, MD