Most things in life work in rhythms - starting, continuing, ending.
School life may seem long at the time, but it has a start and an end, with a few in between. A career was historically expected to be a life-long endeavour, but with an unreliable economy and a generation eager to be on their toes and forever moving, this is increasingly unlikely for today’s young people.
Very little is constant, is reliable, is forever. This has been an interesting topic for musing for me in getting married this term. For the first time in my life I entered into something which I committed to for the rest of my life. It was odd things which brought this home to me in a tangible sense, like the realisation that I didn’t need to ask the question ‘who will I live with next year’ after 8 years of different housemates each September. The thing about Christmas which I also intend to make true about our marriage is that it is a strange mix of something which is continuous and unchanging but also different, new and revolutionary.
We like to talk about Christmas as the start of something, but really it is the continuation of something that had been unfolding for centuries. From the moment God breathed life into humanity he was in. Committed, forever, to an endless tussle, back and forth, good cop, bad cop, hopeful, despairing, tentative, bold, persevering. Jesus wasn’t the first guy he sent to try and connect with us, to build relationship with us. The story Jesus himself tells about a vineyard owner who rents his land then sends different people to meet with the tenants is a clear picture of our story. After repeated assaults on the messengers he sends, the landlord sends his son ‘saying ‘They will respect my son’. But...they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.’ Jesus may be the pinnacle of the fulfillment of God’s promise to pursue relationship with us, but he’s not the first or the final demonstration of it.
The bible is packed with demonstrations of the Christmas story - God coming to earth, engaging, humbling himself, forgiving, letting things go, pursuing - both before and after the birth of Christ.
Yet at the same time this is a moment like no other. It’s one thing to send a servant, it’s another to go yourself, or to send your son. The Christmas story has a habit of being softened and then a habit of being re-told by preachers in an attempt to make it harsh and realistic again. Truthfully, for me, it is a picture of desperation. It was intentional and desperate. It is a picture of God’s utter surrender to his mission - to be vulnerable, to be present - to be seen, felt, heard. Never before had God stooped this low, gone this far.
In my marriage I want to discover this dichotomy of truths. It will forever be the continued perseverance of an age old tale. The coming of the Messiah was not unexpected, it was the timing and method that were surprising. This had been promised from the start - a Saviour, a helper, a wise man, a signpost, a cornerstone. My prayer is that throughout my life my marriage will remain a fulfillment and continuation of that first promise - to love, honour, remain faithful, serve and give. That its moments of pure abandon, effort, joy and impact will be expected even if surprising in their incarnations. Yet at the same time I will endeavour to be a part of seasons which are like nothing ever seen before. I pray that there will be times of utter desperation where the lengths I go to in blessing my husband, our community, our family and our God (the 4-pronged purpose of marriage, after all) is shocking, amazing and revolutionary.