And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”Matthew 9:15
The summer my wife and I got married, I attended ten weddings. We were young; our friends and relatives were all getting married too. It was a time to celebrate! However, I confess that by that September I was a little tired. We had attended a wedding almost every weekend that summer. And, truth be told, I had spent enough time reveling in nuptial joy that with wedding #10 on the horizon I really wasn’t looking forward to attending. I’d like to say that I went joyfully, but honestly, it was probably a bit begrudgingly that I put on my shirt and tie to head out to one more celebration of holy matrimony.
It’s a little sad to me, thinking back, that the real joy of those festivities had become humdrum for me. Weddings are a time to celebrate! Bride and groom, full of love for each other, stand before their families and friends and demonstrate their commitment by promising faithfulness. What a blessing to witness such an event!
Over and over in the New Testament, Christ’s relationship with the Church is described in terms of a wedding. Marriage is the metaphor, with the Church as the Bride, and Jesus himself as the Bridegroom. The Apostle Paul uses this analogy in 2 Corinthians 11:2, depicting himself as a spiritual father to the Corinthian church, giving her in marriage to Christ. In Ephesians 5, Paul uses the Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church as a model for how husbands are to love their wives. In John 3:27-30, John the Baptist likens himself to the Best Man, attending to the Bridegroom—Jesus—and making things ready for his appearance at the celebration. And even Jesus describes himself as the Bridegroom in Matthew 9:15 when questioned about why His disciples did not fast: “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
Advent is a season of longing, of yearning for what is to come. It is much like the preparation for a wedding, knowing that the celebration is coming but not here yet. Christ, the Bridegroom, is “away” from us now. While we are betrothed, the marriage is not yet consummated. And as a bride and groom look forward with longing to the time when they will be united in marriage—and consummate that relationship fully in every sense—so we, the Church, the Bride look forward to the coming of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ!
In Advent, we long for Christ’s second coming even as we remember and celebrate his first coming. And then we shall sing, as part of the great multitude in Revelation 19:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear…
Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Your Bride awaits!