Christmas first, then The Wedding!
We are all abuzz around the Flora house with the upcoming wedding celebration of our son Kevin to his lovely bride-to-be, Meredith! We are now close enough to count down the time in hours until their exchange of marriage vows. The closer we get to the day, the more frenetic the pace seems to be as we rush around with all the last minute arrangements (well, not so much me, but many in the two families!).
The other day when I was picking up something from a store, the clerk kindly inquired if I was ready for Christmas. To which I laughingly replied, “Wedding first, then Christmas!” I gave more details and we both wished each other a Merry Christmas and parted company. As I thought more about my reply on the car ride home I realized that even though my statement was chronologically accurate for this year, it was backward in the bigger picture of what Christ has accomplished for us.
One of the manifold wonders accomplished by the first Advent of Christ is that He laid down His life in order to secure for Himself a Bride, the Church. The apostle Paul in fact reminds husbands in Ephesians 5 that they are to love their wives, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
For some time now, our family has observed a love between Kevin and Meredith that is marked by a delight and a conscious decision to be for the other in all things. And although we pray their love will grow in intensity and maturity through the years by God’s grace, we are convinced they love each other.
Now consider Christ and His pursuit of His Bride, the Church: He came bringing life and light, but He did so amidst abject rejection and betrayal.
John’s gospel records for us in chapter one that:
• The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (some translations say apprehended, or taken hold of) v.5
• That though the world was made through Him, the world did not know Him v.10
• That he came onto His own people and His own received him not v.11
As sinners, apart from any Divine intervention, our natural inclination is to reject our great God and Savior.
John 3:19 tells us “the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
I am not sure what your experience is with rejection and betrayal. For some of you I imagine it is fairly great in magnitude, for others perhaps not so severe. Even though I have experienced some, I think if I am evaluating honestly even those events that I would categorize as rejection and betrayal drastically pale in comparison to that which Jesus Christ experienced in His rescue mission that we celebrate at Christmas.
What I do know from my own life is that whenever I have experienced rejection or betrayal (or even a perceived rejection), it does not draw me closer to those involved – in fact quite the opposite: it is extremely difficult (feels impossible) to move toward those who hurt me.
Which is why, when we see and savor yet again what He accomplished, we ought to marvel at the saving and sanctifying work of the incarnate Christ.
Jesus came willingly in to a world with the full knowledge that those He came to seek and save would reject Him. And yet He moved toward His enemies in order that they might come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name. Eternal life and joint heirs with Him of a glorious inheritance kept in heaven for His Beloved. He is even now sanctifying His Bride so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
What great love! Can you fathom such a Savior? I hope so. I know I need to. Especially when I experience the sting of rejection and the hurt of betrayal. Because by resting in His finished work by faith I can then, by grace, to move toward others in love and mercy.
The description of His saving, sanctifying work makes us aware that we are not a holy people. We are spotted with sin and are blemished from the Fall. We need the Savior. Plainly stated: without His saving work, there is no Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
Christmas first, then The Wedding.
This Christmas celebrate the Bridegroom who came to lay down His life for His Bride and is at work to make us holy. In the second Advent of Christ the words recorded for us in Revelation 20:1-5 will be realized:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”