Thursday, December 01, 2005

Celebrating Christmas, Christian Marriage and Singlehood

Because the morning air after days of sticky rain and muddy muckiness was clean and sweet and fresh, and grey baby spotted-neck pigeons, silky black baby orieoles and bandit-eyed chicks picked through the fallen leaves together, and maids chatted under shady fig trees as their silky terrier, jack russell and schnauzer charges played and chased butterflies in nearby grass patches.

Because a favourite running track was graced by the "world's tallest Christmas tree (subject to endorsement by the Guinness Book of Records)" lit every night for twenty minutes after 8pm and 10pm.
Mount FaberBecause the coffeeshop air was cheerful, friendly, toffee-nutish, green and red and sweet.
Because the late night air was sparkling silver, white and champagne.
Because the evening air was full of white colonial iron-wrought structures, fairy lights and red cloth poinsettia, mellow jazz bands under the stars singing of love and Paris, and old couples dancing slowly, unashamedly, tall elderly husbands looking deep and smiling into the eyes of their wives, holding them steadily, guiding them gently.
Because bushy-tailed and dewy-eyed, just starting out on similar dances, grinning gang of successful proposers had night-long toasting sessions and giggling gaggles of newly-engageds had rock showings on.
Because November and December are the months of getting-togethers, of engagements and of weddings and mass celebrations of couplehood and matrimony fill the weekends with the heavy, heady perfume of joy and happiness, and hope and promise.
Celebrating Christian Marriage
I love weddings, especially the weddings of people I know are committed Christians.

One never knows where a pagan marriage is headed, and joyful though we are at that moment, the celebrations are always tainted by the knowledge that even the happy bride and groom do not expect the marriage to last, and that they have from the beginning hedged their bets with pre-nuptial agreements, separate bank accounts and legal advice on how to structure their property and investments so that the Other Side wouldn't get their filthy paws on it come the divorce. It is difficult to celebrate whole-heartedly such a temporal joy. How can I shake your hand, give you a bear hug or slap you on the back and toast to your future when your future is bleak with self-centred strife, divorce tactics, looking out for No.1 and the numbers of the next-in-line if this spouse doesn't work out?

But there is the overwhelming assurance that a marriage focused on God is the beginning of many good things to come. Not easy or smooth-sailing, but good. Difficult other-centred love and servanthood, true partnership bonded by love of God, commitment between two sinful people to work things out under their King and Master and a stable environment in which to bring children into the world to live and grow without the fear and insecurity of the family or the mother being abandoned like a used toy when a newer better model with cooler functions happens to pass by one day. For that, a row of tuxedos would wipe away a tear or two of pure gladness (jus somethin' in the eye, mate) and sniffle into their white hankies.
Celebrating Christian Singlehood
It is painful at pagan weddings to see singles falsely happy and secretly envious; or desperately despairing and flirting and chatting up every eligible looking person at the wedding, getting their cards and contact details to "further the friendship"; or obsessing and talking incessantly about the hows and what-fors of boy-girl relationships, rehashing their usually sensible noble critieria, dissing the usually unfair criteria of the opposite sex, regurgitating the methods of approaching and dating etc; or mourning what they view to be their embarrassing useless singlehood and scheming and exchanging advice on how to lose weight or go under the knife or take self-improvement classes or make themselves more interesting or go out to more places to meet funky members of the opposite sex (and sometimes same sex), so as to finally finally get married. I've even known some girls who were frantic enough to read the Bible, aiming to be "good Proverbs 31" women so as to ensnare Christian men ("because they are nicer and will treat us right"). It is a pitiful to see so many people waste their one and only life away, putting all their energy and hope on an institution and a person that would surely fail them in the end.

But what a joy it is to see at Christian weddings, a greater concentration of the strong happy Christian single friends of the bride and groom, sincerely cheering on the newly-weds, comfortable and exulting in their singlehood because of their strength and happiness in their relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Not a poseur-ish successful banker who is self-sufficient and has loads of hobbies and friends type of confidence, nor a narcissistic efficient pietistic Elisabeth Elliot type who throws herself into good works and improving her godliness to make herself more attractive while waiting for her prince to come type of strength (both of which carry the stench of idolatry), but the knowledge that (although something real to be found in a marriage relationship cannot be had by singles) contentment and satisfaction and companionship are not found in a marriage but in fellowship within the church family.

And still, not quite just fellowship within the church but completeness is in knowing they are loved by God himself. Not less some days than others, not less when they fail him or don't perform, but decisively, totally, despite their failures towards him; that they are loved painfully, perfectly on the cross. And completeness is in loving him back.

It's only in a correct and right relationship with God that we find total fulfilment. Discontentment, dissatisfaction and loneliness are real and understandable conditions of any human, whether married or single. So the solution is not marriage but knowing God. Only in him can we find contentment, satisfaction and companionship.

Now, dimly, we might enjoy some rest and peace. But when we finally see him face-to-face on the Last Day, we will find rest and contentment and peace and completeness unimaginable, unabridged, inexhaustible.

Which is why Matthew 22:30 says:
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
Which is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:31-32:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Which is why the one of the Bible's last images describes heaven as a marriage feast:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)(Revelation 19:7-8)
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)
So whether we are single and have never married, have been divorced, separated or widowed, whether our marriages are comfortingly strong or shakily on the rocks, our fulfilment is to be and will be utterly and absolutely and comprehensively found in a relationship with God in the new heavens and new earth. Just the way he designed us.

Enough reason to pop another bottle of champagne and celebrate Christmas. And the Boy Who Lives. Innit.

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