Jan 15, 2016

Learning About Marriage from Christmas (even though it's Epiphany)

By Rebekah Theilen

Life is fertile ground for marriage conflict.

The thorns. The rocks. The birds and the bees. Days go by. Years go by. The man and woman trudge along, East of Eden, choking down their doled out lot of sweat and sorrow. Bodies wear and hearts grow callous, more and more unable—and unwilling--to walk with one another, to walk toward one another. The farther down the road they get, the more they hurt, the more they ache, the more they mourn what was, what is, what never shall be this side of heaven’s shore.

The man and woman thirst for Hope. No matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, the marriage, the one-flesh union, shrivels in shame. The Promised Ring from long ago feels too far off. They look around and all they see is devastation. Neither male nor female can tell you why or how they got there. And yet, you know they know, for they cannot escape the pain, cannot tame the pointing finger--it’s no use.  The blessing of Heaven has become a gangster’s paradise.  

But then the sky opens. Heaven tears apart the veil, the thick covering of hopelessness and evil deeds, exposing the darkness. “Fear not,” the angel says, For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.” But how can this be? After all the ways we’ve failed, everything that’s happened, everything we’ve done, everything we’ve been through. How can this Joy be for all men, all women, all children, all those running fast and furious from the Light of Light?

God tells us how.  For unto you is born this day, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  The promise rings out on a Bethlehem hillside. He is here! The King of kings has risen! Newborn lungs exercise a prehistoric authority. The bleeding Mary soothes her child. A dragon hits the ground. Demons fall on their face. O Holy, Holy, Holy night! Sorrow and sighing flee away for the earth is once again full of His glory. Peace on earth and mercy wild--God and sinners reconciled! The miracle of reconciliation—this is what your marriage begs for. This is what the earth cries out for. This is what the angels sing for.  

She who has an ear let her hear.

The Lord exhorts wives to respect and submit to their husbands. As a woman it can be hard to know what submission looks like and how a man defines respect. But upon giving us ears to hear the Word, the Spirit also gives us a heart to understand. The Prince of Peace pursues the common ground. By coming down to earth, Christ humbles himself, being born in the likeness of men. Perhaps a woman begins her approach to her husband, not by understanding his manhood, but his personhood, his humanity. Your husband is a man. The man is human. He has a human nature. He has a deep and primal need that hasn’t changed since the day he came forth naked from the ground, naked from his mother’s womb.

He needs another.  

The story goes like this--For God so loved the man he gave a woman. For God so loved the world He gave a Man. The Son of God submits to the womb, the skin, the birth, the pain, the cross.

Christ submits. He moves toward us. He comes to us.

Christ submits because He cares. Care says your life has value and inherent worth. With my actions I can say to my husband, “You, my love, are worthy of care. You are worthy of life and breath and all the wonders this world has to offer. You are worthy to be fed and touched and held. You are worthy of attention, of admiration, of all my heart’s deepest affections. You are worthy to be spoken to, spoken for, to be praised and sung over by the gentle voice of Yahweh.  You are worthy for you are redeemed and beloved in the sight of the Lord.”

Christ submits. He moves toward us. He comes to us.

Christ submits to bring us comfort. Comfort comes to ease our suffering. Comfort gives hope to disperse our despair. Comfort comes and speaks the most beautiful and healing words the man has ever known, “Your sins are forgiven.” Comfort submits to serve alongside and ease the burden. Comfort says I will wash your feet, pick up your socks, eat at your table, laugh at your jokes, hear you out, bite my tongue, kiss your lips, give you my body, and speak no more of your sins. Comfort says go and sin no more, weep no more, sigh no more, grieve no more. Our union is restored. Man and wife are one again, friends again, lovers again.

Christ submits. He moves toward us. He comes to us.

Christ submits to give us courage. Courage says we don’t have to be afraid anymore. Courage assures Joseph he needn’t be afraid to take Mary as his wife. We fear not what love requires—even obedience unto death--for Christ has risen and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We needn’t be afraid of failing—for Jesus finished the work on the cross giving us the glory of His eternal inheritance. Courage leads us to acknowledge and confess the sin residing and warring within our members. Courage forsakes the way of old Adam who threatens the fidelity and life of a marriage. Courage isn’t giving in--courage is giving and asking nothing in return.   

O Joy to the world!  The Lord has given us His one and only Son. God walks with us again for Christ submitted His life to the will of His Father and the arms of His mother. Submission paves the way for reconciliation. Submission pursues the path to peace, to comfort and joy. Submission displays the image of God to your husband--to the world--that the Word of God may not be mocked. Dear wives, most beloved in the Lord and fellow heirs of the grace of life, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Love your husbands. Respect your husbands. Submit to your husbands, and behold, a great and mighty wonder—

Submission paints a picture of Christ’s love for His Bride.

Your marriage is the Lord’s fertile ground for the Gospel.


Rebekah is the wife of Joshua, her husband of twelve years. With the help of the Lord they have brought forth six children. Five grow and play and learn here on this earth while one (lost due to miscarriage) lives and sings in the glory of heaven. They reside in southern Illinois where Joshua serves as pastor to the Lord's flock. Each day ushers and compels them deeper and deeper into the promise of new mercies, the hope of the resurrection, the coming King of Kings, and the blessed life of the world to come. 

Image: "Kurzes Verweilen" by Laurits Andersen Ring, 1908

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