“We are gathered here today to celebrate the wedding of ____”…Fill in the blank. Maybe you heard similar words at your own wedding. Maybe you’re hoping to hear them some day. Or perhaps you’ve heard them at the wedding of a friend or relative. Many people love to go to weddings. They are joyful celebrations of the union of two parties. And they are the culmination of a lot of preparation by both bride and groom.
We are here today to celebrate a wedding. And to prepare for one. Don’t worry, it doesn’t require months of agonizing planning and more money than you can afford. No, the wedding we are preparing for requires our whole lives and all we have to prepare for, and even that’s not be enough. The LORD himself promises to prepare the bride. And Christ, the bridegroom, rejoices. COME TO CHRIST’S WEDDING CELEBRATION, and rejoice with Christ, your bridegroom.
The LORD promised he would not stay silent for the sake of Zion and Jerusalem, his holy city, where his people lived. He was preparing the land for a wedding. Because he wanted his people to get ready, he announced the coming ceremony.
You receive a card in the mail. On it, a picture, perhaps a photo of a newly engaged couple. The card tells you to save the date written on it, and you know to clear your calendar as best you’re able. A joyous occasion is coming, and your relative or friend wants you to know about it.
Similarly, God made sure his people knew a wedding was coming. It must have seemed a long time in coming. God promised to act. He promised not to keep silent. Even now, we haven’t heard a word from him for almost 2000 years! Why doesn’t he give us a little direction or a word of encouragement while we wait for this wedding? If he promises to act, why doesn’t he do something when my spouse lets me down or the job is overwhelming, when icy steps cause a nasty fall, or when the kids are all out of control at once? Far from the marriage God promised, it seems like he is aloof, and we need to resolve our issues ourselves!
We, the Church, must sound like a nagging wife to God at times! We hound him to do what we want, and when he doesn’t we accuse him of abandoning us! Or worse yet, we don’t go full-heartedly into this marriage because we are afraid God won’t live up to our expectations! Instead of making ourselves a beautiful bride, we have covered ourselves with the hideousness of sin.
A few months after that save-the-date arrives in your mailbox, you receive a formal invitation. Of all the hundreds of guests this couple wants to join them, they consider your presence at the celebration very important. You see the options for a meal. Can you feel the anticipation as the joyful day approaches? To participate in it, you still need to send in your RSVP.
God breaks his silence and inactivity. He does what he says. He sends out his wedding invitation—but not to those special guests who bring him great honor in coming. He sends out his invitation to his people with all their ugly sins. He wants them to partake in the celebration. More than a wedding meal, he offers priceless gifts: vindication and deliverance. So take his invitation. COME TO CHRIST’S WEDDING CEREMONY.
A young man gets down on one knee. The young woman with him sees him open a box and reveal a sparkling gem. He wants her to marry him. And when she says yes, does she put that ring back in its box and hide it so it will never see the light of day again? No! She wears it for all the world to see this sign of affection her future husband worked hard to buy for her.
More dazzling than the most perfect diamond ring is the vindication our God won for us. His deliverance is more beautiful than the brightest wedding dress. Because God looked for a beautiful bride and found none, he prepared a bride himself. His vindication is the removal of any and every accusation our sins made against us. This deliverance is God’s own salvation that he brought about in Jesus. These gifts—the drop of sin’s ugly accusation and deliverance from the penalty of sin—are God’s wedding gifts to Christ’s bride. The bride is his own people. And the invitation goes out to the nations. COME TO CHRIST’S WEDDING CEREMONY! Christ has made you, the Church, his bride. He made you beautiful by washing you with his own blood. He died so that your sin would never need to bother you again. He pardons them. This is a greater wedding gift than even kings can give!
It is still tradition in our society for the bride to take her husband’s name. God also gave you a new name when he joined you to this family. When he worked faith in your heart to trust his work for you—perhaps at your baptism—he gave you the name “Christian.” That’s a follower of Christ: someone who receives his forgiveness in faith. It’s also someone who extends this invitation to a world that desperately needs it: COME TO CHRIST’S WEDDING CEREMONY!
God promised to give a new name to his church. New names in the Bible signal often signal a change. God promised to change the name of his people, his prized possession. Like the ideal groom who cherishes his bride, Jesus calls the Church “a majestic crown” and “a royal turban.” The Church is his bright and shining jewel. It’s beautiful because he made it beautiful. He keeps this Church “in his hand” so that it remains safe. He protects the Church from attacks. No one can snatch it from his powerful hand.
And finally he gets to the new name. Gone are the days of God’s people being “Abandoned” and his land “Desolate.” The name he gives his people is, “My delight is in her.” His land is called married. That means the children born to the Church marry God’s people. Christ is filled with joy to have this bride that he prepared for himself. He is not a reluctant groom with cold feet. He is filled with joy at this wedding.
The young man in the tux stands at the front of the church building. His day has arrived. He hasn’t seen the bride all day to boost his anticipation. Then the music starts to play. The wedding party walks down. Everyone stands, and you hear the groom audibly gasp. When his bride enters the room, he wonders if he could ever see anything more beautiful.
That is the joy the Lord feels over you. His Church, which he bought with his own blood, is his beautiful bride. He loves her with the same love we humans only feel for a moment. But his love never ends. The honeymoon stage of the Christ and his Church will not wear out after a couple months or years. We will have a joy-filled celebration forever with the God who loves us.
But then why this long silence? God promised not to be silent until his vindication shines brightly. He brought that vindication when Jesus came to this earth. Now is he silent?
In Jewish culture, a man and woman were considered legally married before they ever started living together. The man would make sure he was established so he could provide for his bride. He would prepare a place for them to live. Jesus also promised that he left to prepare a place for us. When he comes back, we will live with our God and Savior forever. The joy of that celebration will never end.
Do we, the Church, just sit and wait while until Jesus returns? No! There are many who are still covered with the ugliness of sin. They are not waiting for the return of our salvation. Extend the invitation! Tell them to COME TO CHRIST’S WEDDING CELEBRATION! You wouldn’t want to miss out on the wedding of someone dear to you. Why would you want anyone to miss out on the greatest wedding celebration ever? Better than a stunning service and a first-rate reception with a marvelous meal and free drinks, Christ’s wedding will be unimaginably wonderful! Invite people to come by telling them why we can come: because Christ died to make his bride free from any blemish. He gave us the glorious dress of his own salvation.
Where is God’s power in this world? Where are his activity and speaking? He is still speaking through his Word, inviting countless thousands to COME TO CHRIST’S WEDDING CELEBRATION. He is acting through his Spirit, to bring hearts to trust in Christ’s own salvation. And he is using you, his glorious Church, to spread the good news. He will preserve his Church, secure in his hand, until he comes again. Then we will have joy beyond words. Until then, keep extending the invitation. Tell your relatives, friends, neighbors, everyone: COME TO CHRIST’S WEDDING CELEBRATION. Amen.
Rejoice and be glad and give God glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Amen.