The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: “Praise the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His mercy endures forever—” (Jeremiah 33:11 NKJV).
Glistening Christmas lights, the lasting aroma of evergreen trees and wrapped presents bring back precious memories. Families coming together, joyous celebrations and wide-eyed children opening gifts fill my heart. Not that year! That year I was alone and lonely. My heart ached as I longed to be with children and grandchildren, to decorate a Christmas tree and wrap presents. Separated from family, feeling like God abandoned me, I questioned the meaning of Christmas. Seeking to make sense of a holiday without family, I asked God, “God what do you want for Christmas?” Clearly, my heart heard his loving words. “Mary, I want a faithful bride.” Surprised by His words, I wondered why He would say that to me. When a couple becomes engaged, there is a betrothal period. It’s a promise that there is a wedding coming, a time of commitment and being faithful to each other. During this time the bride and groom are preparing for their ceremony, learning about their new roles as husband and wife, and learning about each other. They are preparing to leave their customary “singleness” and enter a union they have never experienced. Bridegroom is often used in the Bible to represent Christ. We the church are His bride. While separated from Christ, the official wedding takes place when he returns for his church. While betrothed to him we honor his expectations of a faithful bride. Leaving behaviors behind that are unbecoming a bride-to-be we enter a new union of holiness. In Matthew chapter one the virgin Mary was betrothed to Joseph but before they married, she discovered she was with child. Scandalous in those times, it was customary that if a woman became pregnant before the marriage, the engagement was dissolved publicly. Everyone would know what she did, and she would be “put away.” Joseph, her betrothed was a good man. He didn’t want to shame Mary, so he sought to “put her away” quietly. God is so gracious. Before Joseph followed through with his plans, an angel spoke to him in a dream and showed him that Mary was carrying the child who would be our Savior. Our betrothal period is waiting for the return of Christ. While betrothed to Him, He doesn’t “put us away” when sin is conceived in our hearts. Like any fiancée who wants to be faithful to their future spouse, we strive to love and live by His words to us. While we wait for the return of Christ, we live out our wedding vows by living out His Word—the Word that was given to us as a gift from the Holy Spirit. There were no gifts for me that year; my earthly marriage was dissolved. I lost connections to everything I wrapped my world around. Old memories disappeared; new memories weren’t on the horizon. Twenty-five years were swept away leaving a void that left me desperate. Then I heard Jesus say, “Mary you can still be my faithful bride.” Those words filled a void no earthly marriage could. I may have lost old connections but I gained a precious understanding of my relationship to Jesus. The memory of that Christmas created a new memory. While I still love glistening lights, wrapping presents, and singing Christmas Carols, I long more to be a “faithful bride.” As my friend Bob Santos said, “If faithfulness is the bond that makes a marriage endure, loving kindness is the element that makes it sweet.” Jesus is faithful and full of lovingkindness for you His loving bride. “Lord, as we celebrate your faithfulness to the world through the birth of Your son, may we ever be faithful to you. We thank you for loving us enough to send your son to become the bridegroom for the world.”