Merry Christmas! People said those words to us many times throughout December, and we said it just as much. Perhaps we truly meant it, perhaps we just said it automatically and thought nothing of it a second later or didn’t even mean it. But if we meant it, we were telling people we hoped they’d have a joyful Christmas, a glad Christmas, a Christmas blessed by the gifts of The Savior, Christ The Lord.
Did you have a Merry Christmas? You probably enjoyed giving and receiving gifts. You certainly enjoyed Christmas dinner. The candlelight service is beloved, and the decorations brought joy and light. Some Christmas lights are still up, so they’re still bringing us light and joy. But was that the main thing for your holiday?
Maybe it was; maybe it wasn’t. I was reminded how hard it is to travel over the holidays. Driving across Ohio to get home isn’t fun; the drive back isn’t any easier. You might have had sadness because you missed somebody or just didn’t get what you wanted. Any number of things could have made things less than merry and bright.
That wedding in Cana was about to get dreary and dull. Jewish wedding parties lasted a week, so it was very important for the bridegroom to have all the supplies he’d need for all the guests for that amount of time. But the bridegroom in today’s wedding failed. Perhaps he had more guests than he expected. Perhaps he underestimated how much he needed. Perhaps he couldn’t afford all he needed. Whatever the reason, the result was the same: the servants ran out of wine to serve the people. Now they’d have nothing to drink.
So Mary told Jesus about it. What was her purpose? Was she just letting Him know He better take the disciples somewhere else if they were going to get something to drink? Did she just figure He’d want to know? Did she want Him to do something? Did she think she could make Him do it even though He was a grown adult or was she just suggesting a possibility? Was she getting tired of waiting to see the almighty power He must have since He’s God?
He responded with some of His hardest words: “What is that between Me and you? My hour is not yet.” He wondered aloud to her why this concerned either of them. His concern was the salvation of the world. But He didn’t say no. He honored her by granting her request. He told the servants to fill the water pots and to take some to the caterer, who declared it the best wine ever and praised the clueless bridegroom. He did it to honor His mother, but He also did it in order to honor marriage.
Marriage is the oldest estate in the world. Nothing is older. The workplace isn’t as old. The government isn’t as old. Dr. Luther tells us God instituted civil government when He told Noah about the death penalty after the Flood. Employment started when Cain became a farmer and Abel a rancher. Parenthood started when Eve conceived Cain. But marriage began on that sixth day of creation, that very first Friday, when God formed Eve from newly-created Adam’s rib and presented her to him to be his bride.
Why did He institute it? He said it was not good for the man to be alone. He instituted it for companionship, for man and woman to unite to accomplish the tasks of this life. One of those tasks is procreation, having children. He wanted this union to be for life, and He wanted this union to be found solely in marriage, between man and woman.
Why is this? What’s so important about marriage? Jesus wants marriage to reflect His union with His Church. The Church is united to Christ. St. Paul calls it a marriage in Ephesians. He says Christ won His Bride with His Death. He shed His Blood for her and made her spotless and clean. He loved her and gave Himself up for her, to win her, to woo her. So Christ is the man of the relationship and The Church is the woman. She gives birth to children whenever someone is baptized. The font is her womb.
Christ won The Church to be His Bride when He died. This reminds us that our wedding practices are different from what they once were. A bridegroom-to-be had to pay for his wife. He had to pay to provide for her future if he went off the scene. He had to pay a nice sum of gold or silver. Jesus didn’t pay any gold or silver. He paid something else. He paid with His own lifeblood. He went to His Cross and shed His Blood and died. Then He rose from the dead to claim His Bride. He declared her sins forgiven and she began to bear children for God, those who believe in Him for their salvation.
Why did He have to cleanse His Church with His Blood? Isn’t she holy? He had to cleanse her because she is made up of sinners, you and me. We are sinners. We see this in our relationships. Not one of us hasn’t had a disparaging thought towards a spouse or significant other. Not one of us hasn’t had an indecent thought or said an indecent word or desired to see something indecent that would have made your mother, and more importantly Jesus, blush. We are not holy people. We are sinners. We don’t deserve Jesus. Jesus doesn’t deserve us.
Yet He has chosen us. He has chosen to marry us, as we heard in the Old Testament reading on Christmas Eve morning. He has chosen to make us a pure bride. A man marries a woman because of who she is. Christ didn’t do that. He found a bride who wasn’t worthy of His attention. Our sins ought to repel Him. But they don’t. Instead He comes to us. He has scooped up all our sinfulness, which would fill all the world’s water pots, and placed them square on His back. He has been punished for it all. He has shed all His Blood. He poured it over you at Baptism. You are cleansed of sin.
This is the source of our gladness. He is The Lord of Gladness. What makes us glad is that He has come to heal us from our destructions, which means He has come to rescue us from hell. What joy! Hell is full of eternal terrors, and that’s what we deserve, but Christ gives us eternal gladness! He suffered the terrors, and we get the joys. He makes our lives merry and bright, not with all the toys you could dream of, but with the promise that this life’s sorrows are only for a moment, but eternity’s joys are endless!
So let us believe in Him. That was the main reason He showed His glory. It caused His disciples to believe in Him. It helped them realize He is no mere man, but God in our flesh. It led them to look forward to the great revelation of His glory: His Death and Resurrection. Believe in Him. Believe your sins are forgiven and eternal life is yours. Believe it: and it is yours already. Rejoice and be glad! Rejoice and be merry and set sorrows aside. Rejoice in Him, and you shall have His peace all the days of your life.