It’s a strange time of year to be thinking about weddings. There aren’t many weddings in November, although there are undoubtedly many people planning to tie the knot in a couple days: 11/11/11.
I remember a wedding in the video for Guns n’ Roses’ “November Rain,” one of the few songs I’ve ever danced to, back in the summer of 1992. Definitely a good one if you find the right girl since it’s so long, though the upbeat coda presents a challenge.
(I’m thinking about weddings because I’m planning to preach later this month on the image of the Church as a bride, and I am using this venue to sort out some of my thoughts. I hope you don’t mind.)
You’ve seen one, you haven’t seen ‘em all
I’ve played at probably more than a hundred weddings over the years, many in churches, some outside at country clubs, one on the edge of a lake, and one in someone’s backyard. Much is the same from wedding to wedding, including similarities in the vows, the exchange of rings, lighting of unity candles, the occasional fainting of a bridesmaid.
The groomsmen and the grooms themselves even appear similar. But the bride—the bride is different at every wedding. Their gowns are similar, in that they’re white, yet the women wearing the dresses hold a unique beauty. Their hair may be pinned up or cascading down. Pearls might ornament their necks, or maybe diamonds or gemstones. More than their adornments, they bear an aura, a glow about them, as though light from heaven itself shines on them. I’ve seen this particularly when I know the couple is committed to Christ.
But no light has ever shone brighter on a bride than my own. I remember it like it was yesterday. I stood at the front of the church near my best man and my pastor, my piano instructor providing handpicked tunes for the occasion. I waited nervously like any 21 year old would, so many thoughts jumbled in my mind. But everything became clear—or perhaps it was a fuzzy, dreamlike stupor—when Cindy entered the sanctuary, her arm around her father.
I was mesmerized by nothing short of exquisite beauty, unparalleled by any magazine cover. Her hair was pulled up in a way I hadn’t seen on her before, and she was luminous in white, the dress her sister-in-law sewed for her. In an instant the reality hit me—You mean, I get to take this woman home with me?!
What was it that made her so beautiful to me? Surely I’ve seen and would see brides in more extravagant dresses and far costlier jewels. Our wedding was simple, both the ceremony and the reception that followed. Even Cindy’s adornment one could say was unassuming. Yet no other bride have I seen who could rival my own.
The Bride of Christ
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. —Revelation 21:2 (ESV)
The Church—meaning the entirety of the saints who have died, those living, and those who will come—is pictured as the bride of Christ. I will write about how the church is at this point betrothed, looking forward to the marriage feast. I will also share how this bride in my experience has at times been anything but beautiful. Even Scripture has compared her to a harlot.
Yet the Church, she is the beloved of Jesus. He both adores and adorns her, as we shall see.