Jesus was given—a God-given gift to the world. In a few moments I will ask Neil and Leah, in turn, if they will each give the greatest and most precious gift they have to offer; the gift of themselves; to the other—even more lovingly wrapped and prepared, I'd like to think, because it's given in Christmastide. And it's especially fitting because, as we just heard, marriage itself is a gift of God. In this case, a special Christmastide gift for Neil and Leah, in which "husband and wife give themselves to each other in love" so they will "grow together and be united in that love, as Jesus, the great Bridegroom, is united with his Bride, the Church—which brings us back to Jesus being the reason for the season and for this Christmastide wedding.
So, Leah and Neil, as Robert Fulgham wrote in the first reading, “shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same." You’ll spend the rest of your lives opening, being challenged by, delighting in, misunderstanding and enjoying this Christmastide gift of each other.
Here are some Christmastide wedding gift-of-yourselves opening tips:
First, I noticed not everybody and everything you hoped would be here this weekend is here. It will be the same in your marriage, you will both miss things, make mistakes, be careless, take one another for granted. You won’t always be there and present for one another. Jesus always is. “I am with you always” (Mt 28.20), he said. Look to Him. He is the very best helper and comforter through life’s disappointments.
Second, change is the only constant in life. You will change—they way you look, the way you behave, what you like and don’t like; sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worse. Jesus never changes. He stays the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 3.18). He is the very best and absolutely constant source of help through life’s changes.
Third, life is noisy. Have you noticed? (Lots of kids present and a good thing, too!) All this gift opening and discovery and growing together and being united in love happens in the midst of kids, work, anxieties, distractions, temptations—all vieing for our attention and having the power to divert our attention from the most important people in our lives. Robert Fulgham, reminds us to remember the "common things," the conversations, walks, informal little day by day commitments made to each other. He called these little, seemingly inconsequential things, "the real process” of a marriage. I agree.
Finally, the “still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12.31) to unwrap and enjoy the Christmastide wedding gift you’ve given each other today. Live in love—not so much the romantic love into which you’ve fallen, delightful as it is, but the more determined, act-of-the-will, toilet-seat-up-or-down, toothpaste-tube-scrunched-or-not kind of love which will grow you together as long as you both shall live; the love we heard about in the second reading. Jesus personifies it. Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind, does not seek his own interests. Jesus is not quick-tempered, does not brood over injury, or rejoice over wrong doing. Jesus rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes and hopes for the best for you both in all things. By following his example, you can love each other better than you know how. This is love with muscle which never fails and will have you celebrating your fiftieth wedding anniversary on the fourth of January, 2064. Mark your calendars.
May Jesus by your way, your truth and your life in your marriage as you open and enjoy the Christmastide wedding gifts of yourselves you have given each other today.
All praise be to Jesus Christ.