Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christ our Bridegroom

The Gospel story, wherein Jesus was incarnated, lived a sinless life, died a sin-filled death, was resurrected, and now sits at the right hand of God, is glorious. The incarnation is fantastic and worthy of celebration.

Yet this Christmas, it was not some new facet of Christ’s birth that grabbed my heart. I love the Christmas story, but it has not captured my thinking as it has in years past. Instead the thing that has rattled around in my brain has more to do with what Jesus became for us after his birth than at his birth.

I am enamored with Christ being our bridegroom as depicted by Martin Luther.

While this is not exactly a Christmas thought, it is an amazing reality that could have only happened because of Christmas. I can’t describe what Luther says better than he can, so I give it to you in his own words.
The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh [Eph. 5:31–32]. And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage—indeed the most perfect of all marriages, since human marriages are but poor examples of this one true marriage—it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil. Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take upon himself the things which are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are his. If he gives her his body and very self, how shall he not give her all that is his? And if he takes the body of the bride, how shall he not take all that is hers?
Here we have a most pleasing vision not only of communion but of a blessed struggle and victory and salvation and redemption. Christ is God and man in one person. He has neither sinned nor died, and is not condemned, and he cannot sin, die, or be condemned; his righteousness, life, and salvation are unconquerable, eternal, omnipotent. By the wedding ring of faith he shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are his bride’s. As a matter of fact, he makes them his own and acts as if they were his own and as if he himself had sinned; he suffered, died, and descended into hell that he might overcome them all. Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by him in a mighty duel; for his righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, his life stronger than death, his salvation more invincible than hell. Thus the believing soul by means of the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its bridegroom, free from all sins, secure against death and hell, and is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ its bridegroom. So he takes to himself a glorious bride “without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” [Cf. Eph. 5:26–27] of life, that is, by faith in the Word of life, righteousness, and salvation. In this way he marries her in faith, steadfast love, and in mercies, righteousness, and justice, as Hos. 2 [:19–20] says.
—Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” Career of the Reformer 1, Luther’s Works, Volume 31, p. 351–352.
Merry Christmas. The Christ is born, who has become our bridegroom. To him be the glory and honor and power forever.

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