for Scott Munekawa and Joanne Santomauro, December 21, 2014
Scott and Joanne, welcome to your wedding! Don’t they look beautiful, everyone? What a delightful day; there’s such a rich sense of arrival about a day like today, isn’t there? And here you are, my friends!
At the beginning of the ceremony, we sang a lovely hymn, asking the “Fount of every blessing” to come. That little first line—Come, Thou Fount of every blessing—tells the story of the whole world. It acknowledges that there is One who is the “fount of every blessing,” tracing a line from all good things in the world back to their source in God, the fountain from which flows every good and perfect thing. These blessings come from somewhere, from someone. The world is chock full of gifts flowing from our God and Father, who is perfect and unchanging in love and mercy, patience and kindness. The same God who made the world in the beginning is the God who tends the world like a garden, watering it, making sure it gets enough sun, defending it from weeds and pests, pruning it that it might grow straight and strong and bloom bright and beautiful.
Ah, but the best word in our opening hymn? It’s the opening word, a word which is a prayer—Come. Though, like kids on Christmas, we are surrounded in this world with more gifts than we can count, we—again, like kids—have this uncanny knack for breaking our toys as soon as we unwrap them. Or perhaps they survive the flurry of wrapping paper and so delight us that we forget where they come from, our loving parents. How strange that all we would see is the shiny new toy, and not the love that bought it. Of course, with most toys, the exhilaration doesn’t last. How quickly we shove our toys under the bed, to the back of the over-stuffed closet, into the graveyard of forgotten gifts.
When kids do this it’s funny, if a bit sad. When we do it, it’s tragic, worse than tragic. You see, in taking and breaking God’s gifts, in loving them but ignoring him, in finally neglecting and discarding all he gives, we have left him. Like the prodigal son in that famous parable, we have fleeced our Father of all he has, turned our back on him, and gone to make our way in a far country. Of all things, we have left the fountain of life and his lush garden for supposedly greener pastures in a desert of death.
All of which is why “Come” is the best word in today’s hymn. We are too stubborn, too sick, too self-centered to do an about-face and travel the long road back to God. Though we are parched with thirst, we would rather die than swallow our pride and admit the error of our ways. The only hope is that the fount of every blessing would come to us. And come he did.
But in what a strange package—“a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The one who is before all things, in whom all things hold together, came to us as one of the frailest, most helpless of things, came to be held and changed and burped, then later to be harassed and honored, loved and hated, and finally killed. But then, strangest of all, the baby-become-a-man burst through the other side of death, rising again from the grave into new and unending life. Having taken the miseries of the world on himself, he gave the world in exchange his very life.
That’s why a Christmastime favorite can proclaim joy to all the world.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her king;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing…”
“No more let sins and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns invest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found…”
Most of us will be disappointed this week. It’s Christmastime—which promises, with rather demanding cheeriness, to give us what we want, to satisfy our sometimes desperate hopes for peace, safety, a sense of belonging, a sense that all, at least for now, is right with the world. But we’ll get caught in traffic. We’ll extend an olive branch to an alienated sister or father or daughter, only to have that branch broken in our face. We’ll find that the quiet, far from offering the bliss of rest, only exposes fears and anxieties. I wish it were otherwise. But in the words of The Princess Bride, “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Nevertheless… The Lord is come. The One whose coming we remember at Christmastime was raised from the dead. He lives even now. His very name—Emmanuel, “God-with-us”—sings the good news of his coming. And he came to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. Scott and Joanne, anywhere you meet the curse, that sign of how far the world has fallen off course—know that that place is not far from the Lord who is come. In his death, he met the curse on its own turf, and in his resurrection, he began to pour out his blessings far as the curse is found—forgiving, healing, setting free, reconciling, renewing.
There’s more: He will come again. The one who came and suffered humiliation at our hands will come again in victory. And all shall be well. All—do you hear that? Some of you may not know how fast and hard Scott and Joanne fell for one another. The evidence is not entirely clear, but the best I can put it together, Joanne burst out with an “I love you” only a few weeks in—at that most romantic of locations, the Yard House. Then they were off to the races… In fact, it may be that you two were so quickly caught up in love that you haven’t had time to get sick of one another.
But, as anyone here will tell you, you will have your days. Scott, every time Joanne gets on your nerves, every time she fails to live up to that ideal you’ve got in mind, remember this: When Christ comes again, all shall be well. Joanne, every time Scott snaps at you, every time you wish he were more this, or more that, remember that Jesus is on the horizon. That he will return, and everything about everything will be well.
That’s the secret of a happy marriage—knowing that a happy marriage isn’t the end-all and be-all. The end-all and be-all is the joyful day when Christ returns, when all of creation is renewed. On the days when you find it easy to love one another, relish the opportunity to paint for the watching world a picture of life with God. On the days when you’d rather be anywhere but with one another, seize the opportunity to eagerly anticipate together the return of Jesus, to right wrongs and right ships. And, together, pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
You two have picked a perfect day to get married, and I hope you’ll never forget where it falls in the calendar. We’re on the cusp of Christmas. You can almost taste it, the festivity and food and, well, fill in the blank—for me, it’s the puzzles and wine and football and books and friends and family. It’s almost in reach. But if we’re on the cusp of Christmas, if we can even taste it and know something of its joy even in the anticipation, we aren’t there yet. It’s still Advent, the season in the church calendar when we hope and pray and wait for the Lord’s coming.
May you experience your marriage similarly—and may others experience your marriage that way, too, your friends, your families, and, Lord willing, your children. May your marriage be an appetizer of God’s kingdom, something so near to the kingdom that you can just taste what it will be like to be with Christ forever. And all the while, may you keep in mind that this marriage—even on its best days—ain’t nothing in comparison to the wedding day of Christ and the church.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.