George Bowers: Leather Jacket Christmas
As many of you know, my father was the Maurertown taxidermist for over 60 years. My siblings and I had many good times in his shop growing up and were privileged to see most of the finest trophies in the valley.
Dad also carried leather goods that paired nicely with his trade. Successful hunters could have their hides tanned and tailored into beautiful deerskin gloves, slippers, wallets, pocketbooks, and jackets in a variety of styles and colors. Unsuccessful and non-hunters could purchase the same items made from someone else’s success. Many times we envied the people leaving dad’s shop sporting their new leather duds.
When one Christmas, it happened. As we unwrapped our gifts that morning, each of us four children had brand new leather jackets just our sizes, complete with the countless fringes! We were in high cotton, or deep deerskin. I still remember riding around in our station wagon a day or so after Christmas looking at lights, all wearing our new coats. We actually looked forward to going back to school after New Year’s so we could show off our new styles. Such pride was short-lived however, as jealous kids on Bus 32 enjoyed yanking those fringes.
Humans have been wearing leather ever since God fashioned our first acceptable garments in the garden of Eden. Our unsuccessful attempts to cover ourselves with fig leaves prompted God to respond in grace, kill an animal, and tailor-make our clothes to cover not just our nakedness, but our sin. This was a foreshadowing of what his son, Eve’s seed, would come to do many years in the future. The lamb of God was later born in Bethlehem to be slain in Jerusalem so that the sin of all humankind could be covered and eliminated forever. In doing so, He provided white, unwrinkled, and blemish free garments of righteousness that we can wear throughout eternity, if we so choose.
God tells us through Isaiah that all of our righteous deeds are like filthy rags in his sight. Thankfully, we don’t have to wear our self-made dirty shreds of human effort, but get to sport the finest that heaven can offer. Like our leather jackets, our new spiritual clothing was provided by someone else’s sacrifice and labor, of which we are the fortunate recipients.
Although our new clothes were ordered on that first Christmas morning when Jesus entered our world, they weren’t completed until he died on the cross 33 years later. This sacrifice satisfied the spiritual principle his father demonstrated in Eden and articulated in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.”
Thankfully, our new outfits are now finished and come in all shapes and sizes. They cover even the vilest of our sins and make us look beautiful in God’s eyes. And they are wrapped up with love just waiting for us to receive and open. If you have never accepted your new clothes that Jesus died to give you, take this moment to do so by admitting your sin to God and inviting him to forgive you through Jesus’ sacrifice. When you do, he immediately supplies your new wardrobe and his holy spirit will help you put it on and wear it with obedience. Praise God for our new Christmas jackets and may we don them with gratitude in the New Year!
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.