The Wedding

My best friend got married last week to the man of her dreams in the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen. I’m so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to stand beside her on such a wonderful, God-centered day.

Thinking back on that day, I can see all the tiny things coming together to make something amazingly huge, and I’m constantly reminded of our own journey toward the day Jesus comes back for The Bride (the church).

When James beautifully asked Kaitlyn to marry him, they started their journey. Their families and friends gathered around them to congratulate them, love them, and help them get ready for the big day – the wedding.

In that moment, the wedding seemed really far away, but, always together, the bride and groom joined together with like-minded people and started getting ready. It started out with just a few people – some family, some friends, and a wedding planner. As the bride and groom shared their love story, though, it expanded – more family, more friends, the wedding party, the caterers, the cake.

There were moments when the bride got distracted – when other things of life got in the way of the preparations like school, work, and friends. Sometimes the bride was just too tired to think about the wedding to come. But she was held up and gently pushed along by people who had been a bride before her, who knew what was going on, and who could encourage her on her journey.

There were moments when things just seemed to go wrong. The bride burned her face right before their engagement pictures. The straps fell off the dresses. Someone’s pants didn’t fit. Her brother got sick. But the bride pushed through, held up by her love, knowing that none of that really mattered as long as, in the end, she was there for the wedding day.

Slowly, and not without struggle, the work got done. As the bride and groom excitedly moved toward their big day, they shared their love story with everyone around them, and as more people heard, they got involved in the preparations.

Finally, the day came.

The bridegroom was coming for his bride.

There was soft music playing in the candle-lit room. There was a hush as a great cloud of witnesses waited for the right moment.

And then the doors opened.

The bride, in her pure white dress, began her long, slow walk down the aisle to the groom. With tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips, she looked only at him.

The groom took a half step forward like he was about to leap off the stage and run to her, but with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, he simply waited, and he looked only at her.

When she made it to the end, he took her hand in his, and they made promises of love everlasting.

In the end, the bride and groom were finally married, and there was a great feast. At the feast, everyone saw old and new friends, family, and loved ones. There was food and dancing and laughter and joy. There were tears and hugs and kisses and songs.

I can’t help remembering that and seeing a day that I know is coming that will be much like it.

I know that as a Christian, I’m moving with the rest of the church to the day when Jesus, the bridegroom, comes back. Along the way, we’re making the preparations and sharing our love story with everyone around us. We’re gathering together more and more people to join in our love story and prepare for our wedding day.

I can’t wait for the day when the doors open and The Church comes pouring through in her pure white dress, with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face and eyes only looking at The Savior who has tears in His eyes and a smile on His face and is only looking at her.

And then we’ll feast and be united with family and friends. We’ll dance and laugh and sing, and all together, we’ll praise the King who brought us all together in the first place.

Christmas

It’s a time where we remember a child in an itchy manger in a smelly stable surrounded by noisy animals being visited by complete strangers.

His poor mother, who has just given birth (not the most comfortable of things) probably looks like a mess and feels even worse. And here come a bunch of shepherds who smell like the sheep they tend telling a story of a bunch of angels and so eager for a glimpse of the child.

Graciously, she extends a welcome to them, believing the story that would have had them locked away today, and knowing, deep inside, just how special this child of hers is.

Who knows what Joseph is doing then. I always imagine that he’s proud, like a new father should be, but a little confused because he knows the child isn’t really his – that the child is, in fact, God’s Son. I imagine him being worried about Mary and the baby and a little upset because the only thing he could give her was a stable. I imagine him being a little frazzled and constantly running his hands through his hair and pacing around. I picture him trying to shelter Mary and the child from the shepherds when they first come in with their story, but then accepting them and letting them see and worship.

The story’s usually really cute and sweet, but I imagine it was a little rough around the edges back then. They were probably a little (a lot) stressed out. Mary and Joseph were probably exhausted.

I really don’t believe the Christmas carols that say that Jesus didn’t cry. Babies cry. And scream. And smell funny. And look like strange, mutant lizards.

It probably wasn’t as peaceful as we’d like it to be, but, in that moment, God became fully man and salvation was on its way. That makes it beautiful.

I wonder if Mary knew that.

Fast forward a couple of years to when the wise men show up. They come wearing funny clothes, talking in strange accents, bringing magnificent gifts, and telling an unlikely story about a star and King Herod wanting to know where the child is. Once again, she believes them and understands and welcomes them and lets them worship the Son of  God.

The kinds of people who came to see Jesus after he was born tell a lot about who he would be serving later.

The shepherds were poor. They were social outcasts. They weren’t normally accepted into people’s homes. They kept to themselves and did their own thing.

The wise men were Gentiles. In fact, they came from the East, where most of Israel’s enemies had come from throughout the years. They were pagans and, to the Jews, salvation for them was unattainable.

These were the people the Jesus was going to open doors for. These were the people he was going to bring the light of salvation to. These were the people he died for. He came for the poor, the outcast, the pagan, the Gentile, the rich, and the enemies of God. Jesus was God’s gift to the world. The whole world. No exceptions. He was the gift for all of us.

Christmas is a time to remember the child, the manger, the hope, and the gift. We should be humbled and so extremely thankful.