Watching unbelievers celebrate Christmas is similar to watching two unbelievers scramble to find a church and a minister for their wedding. Symbols designed to mark the greatest story ever told become little more than vestigial organs of Christian tradition, disemboweled of their original meaning and usurped in order to exalt the creature instead of the Creator. In America, as Christmas goes, so goes marriage. Or vice versa. Regardless, the way that we celebrate one is typically the way that we celebrate the other. Both are loaded with Gospel meaning, and both can be readily evacuated of any biblical significance. As two of God’s great gifts to mankind, Christmas and weddings require us to step back and actually think about what they mean and how they’re related. Christmas and weddings also provide us with unique opportunities to deliver the Gospel message to those who have ignored their purpose. And that’s when we find that they’re pointing to one and the same truth. The best wedding is a Christmas wedding.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that marriage was designed to project the truth of the Gospel in a sinful world: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25) But he goes one step further in telling us that the Gospel was foreshadowed in Genesis: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ [Gen. 2:24] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (vv. 29-32) In other words, God joined Adam and Eve in one flesh for the beautiful purpose of commemorating the one flesh union between Christ and His bride. Marriage is about Christmas. Christmas is about marriage. Our holy matrimony is designed by God as an earthly tableau of the incarnate God wedded to His people.
The Son of God became enfleshed as a wedding pledge to His bride, declaring that He would not hate his own flesh but would nourish us and cherish us. He would no longer stand against us because, as it were, we are part of Him. We are His own body. God commands men and women to leave their parents’ homes for the same reason He sent His Son to tabernacle among us: to be one flesh. That means every couple that gets married in May or June or July or August must be reminded of Christmas. The holiday message cannot be relegated to December. Baby Jesus is the key to a great marriage. He reminds us that faithfulness isn’t just an attitude or a written contract; it’s becoming one flesh with another person in such a way that our beloved is our own body. Should you wrong your own spouse, you wrong yourself. Should Christ deny us, He would deny Himself. (2 Tim. 2:13) Therefore divorce isn’t simply walking away. For God, it’s atheism. For us, it’s a ripping apart of an organism. It’s spiritual schizophrenia. As Christmas goes, so go our marriages.
Of course Christmas isn’t the most ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 2. In some sense, Jesus is saving the best Christmas party for the end of time, when we will marry our true Bride in complete union – flesh and spirit – at the last wedding. At that ceremony, the incarnation won’t simply give meaning to our marriage; it will be our marriage. By the power of the resurrection and the spirit of Christmas, our bodies will be adorned with the same glorious flesh as our Groom. (Phil. 3:21) And then we’ll have our Christmas wedding. As Christmas goes, so will go our last marriage: birthed by the Spirit, and made one with our Beloved.