Advent 2 Midweek 2015–The Bridal Song of Christ’s Church
2nd Sunday of Advent—Midweek Vespers
St. Peter Lutheran Church
December 9, 2015
“The Bridal Song of the Church of Christ”
Adapted from G. Stoeckhardt’s Adventpredigten
This psalm sounds like the happy ending to a fairy tale, doesn’t it? In it we have a description of a glorious, noble, conquering king, who rides forth into battle on behalf of the oppressed and on behalf of righteousness. Then we have a beautiful queen or princess, adorned in splendid garments, and being brought into the king for their wedding.
Fairy tales resonate with us. They speak to the part of our souls that longs for meaning, for heroism, for the triumph of good over evil. But things seldom seem to work out like fairy tales in the real world, and as we get older we have less and less hope that things will work out happily ever after.
But even though this psalm sounds like a fairy tale, it isn’t. It’s a bridal song. It’s also a prophecy. It tells of the King promised throughout the Scriptures—the Messiah, the Christ. And it speaks of His marriage, His wedding.
Modern commentators have suggested that this psalm was composed for the wedding of Solomon or one of the other kings of Israel. But the New Testament shows us that the Holy Spirit inspired this psalm to prophesy of Christ, His kingdom and His royal wedding. In the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews it quotes this psalm as referring to God’s Son. “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1:8-9)
This Psalm is The Bridal Song of the Church of Christ. In it The Bride sings and makes music to the Lord, her King and her Bridegroom and in it she also rejoices in the beautiful garments she has received from her bridegroom. This psalm is the voice of the Church. It expresses the longing and tender love of Christ’s bride for Him, and also her joy in what He has done for her. It is our song too. For we are Christ’s bride, who are baptized and believe in Him. We know our bridegroom; we are bound to Him through the most tender bonds of love. Because we cannot now see our Bridegroom’s face, we long after His visible appearing, especially during this season of Advent.
The bride sings and makes music to her King and Bridegroom. “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme,” she sings. Whatever our heart is full of spills out and overflows through our lips in our words. The Church’s heart is full of Jesus and what He has done for her. Therefore Christ’s Church is always proclaiming Him, singing of Him, praising Him.
And what is the nature or the subject of her song? She sings of the beauty of Jesus. “You are the most handsome of the sons of men,” she sings. How is Jesus handsome? He is beautiful because He radiates the glory of the eternal God. He is the eternal God, light of light, joined to our human flesh. And when He emerged from His chamber, when He was born of the virgin Mary, God the Son did not appear with a frightening countenance, in wrath to judge us for our sins. He was born an infant and laid in a manger. His face was one of friendliness and kindness—God’s friendliness and kindness toward us sinners. And when the believers in Jesus saw Him, they rejoiced. Simeon held Jesus in the temple and said, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace…for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” John rejoiced and boasted, “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…” (John 1) The true beauty of this most beautiful of the children of men is the grace, kindness, and gentleness of the most holy God, who has come to be with us in the flesh.
Of course, we haven’t seen Jesus with our eyes. Instead, we hear Him with our ears. The psalm says: “Grace is poured upon your lips…” (v. 2) When Jesus preached in his hometown of Nazareth, the people wondered at “the gracious words that came from His mouth.” We are still hearing these gracious words of Jesus as He proclaims to us in the Gospel that He has come to save us, His righteousness is for us. The preaching of the Gospel is Jesus’ voice; it flows from His lips. It is sweeter than milk, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. The voice of the Bridegroom, which we hear in the Word gives life, joy, and comfort to the soul. And it is not a fleeting happiness like the pleasures of the world. It is God’s grace, that He favors us. It is an eternal, unchanging comfort that sinks down into our hearts through the Bridegroom’s voice.
Jesus is the most beautiful, the most handsome of the sons of men. The Bride, the Church, hears His Word and in it sees the gracious, beautiful face of her bridegroom.
Of course the world does not see beauty in Jesus. It sees, as Isaiah says, that “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Is. 53:2-3) Jesus was humble. He was meek. He endured insults and persecution in His time on earth. Finally He was betrayed, punished with whips, hung up to die shamefully on the cross where He cried out that God had forsaken Him. The world sees no beauty and glory here in this king and in the way in which His disciples walk.
But the bride, the Christian Church, the believing soul has her joy precisely in this most-despised and humiliated Jesus, this man of sorrows. In His affliction and rejection and weakness, in His bloody wounds, the Bride’s soul has been healed. He has taken away her sins. “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” The blood of the Lamb is the comfort and consolation of souls distressed by their sins. She sees Jesus’ beauty shining from the cross.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions (v.6-7). Jesus is the King of Righteousness. He is the Holy God in human flesh. He loves righteousness and hates wickedness, and He reigns in righteousness. Therefore His throne will be forever and ever. It will have no end.
Many times people will ask why God allows evil on the earth. Here the Psalm tells us Jesus’ kingdom is not a kingdom of sin and evil; it is a kingdom of righteousness. Even though the world accuses God of unrighteousness, it is really the world that is evil. It hates the light and will not come into the light lest its deeds should be exposed (John 3). It rejects Christ. It will not let the light of His holy law expose its sin, nor believe in the righteousness that counts before God, which is Jesus’ righteousness alone.
But now Jesus the King has come to earth in the flesh to establish righteousness on the earth. He came in the flesh to fulfill the law in our place and to receive the righteous penalty of the law for our sins. In doing this He established righteousness on the earth, what the Scriptures call “The righteousness of God.” By His obedience and suffering whoever believes in Him is counted righteous before God. And now He reigns with His Word, dispensing righteousness to all repentant sinners in the Gospel, but condemning those who would stand on their own righteousness.
This is the King and Bridegroom to whom the Bride, the Church, sings and makes music—the Son of God and the Son of Man. She rejoices in Him because He has wedded Himself to her and made His righteousness and kingdom her own.
Now in the second half of the psalm the Bride also rejoices in the glorious wedding garment she has received from her Bridegroom. Everything that is said about the honor and dignity of the Bride really serves to honor the Bridegroom. She owes everything that she is and has to Him. At the side of the king stands “the king’s daughter” and “her virgin companions.” These are the people who are chosen by God out of all nations. The Church is the Bride that stands at the right hand of the king.
Jesus the King, the eternal Son of God, has chosen the Church. When He first saw her, she was filthy and ugly. She was lying in her uncleanness. She was full of blemishes and stains. Everyone who now belongs to Christ and adores Him as King was conceived and born in sins and carry by nature the image of fallen Adam. The Bride had no beauty or appearance that the King should desire her. But now the Bridegroom, the King, says to her, “Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty.” (v.10-11) He says, “Recognize your nakedness and your shame. Be ashamed of your birth in sin. You are impure from the womb. Forget your heritage, forget father, mother, brother and sister. Renounce yourself and forsake the world. Come to me. With me you will find rest for your soul. You will be my bride and share in the wealth of my kingdom.” Through this alluring and enticing speech the Bridegroom has won His bride. He has chosen His Bride, His Church, out of the world, called her by the Gospel, drawn her to Himself out of pure goodness and grace. Still today we hear His beckoning voice: Forsake and forget what is behind. Seek Jesus and the light of His face. And forgetting what is behind, we draw near to Christ by faith, putting on His blood and righteousness as our wedding garment.
The King now shows His desire for His Bride and His delight in her. “The King will desire your beauty. Since He is Your Lord, bow to Him.” (v. 10-11). “All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with god. In many-colored robes she is led to the king…” (v.13-14) The Lord Himself is the one who has so beautifully clothed His Bride the Church. It is true that outwardly the Church has no beauty or appearance. Externally she carries a mundane, earthly appearance. She is disfigured by the wounds of the cross she bears. From outside Christians appear to be the most miserable people on earth, Luther would say. But inwardly they are the most lovely bride, dressed in splendor and wearing a crown, pleasing and lovely to Jesus.
The Bride of the King is glorious within. She is purified inwardly by the blood of Jesus. She is made holy through the Holy Spirit, and wears through Baptism the robe of Christ’s innocence and righteousness. The image of the most beautiful among the children of men, the image of the Crucified, is stamped upon her. In her heart glows the gold of faith in Christ, which is tried through the heat of tribulation. The Bride shines in the glorious robes of the Bridegroom, and so the King has pleasure in her beauty.
The Bride of Christ glories in the love of her Bridegroom, the favor that Christ has shown her. Before the whole world she tells what God has done for her in Christ. “I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.” (v. 17) What the Church proclaims and sings about Christ, the King and Bridegroom, entices and allures others to come and adore her Lord.
The commemoration of the Lord in proclamation and praise continues forever. The joy of the Bride continues forever. She rejoices forever in Her Bridegroom and the glorious splendor with which He has clothed her. And soon, when the Bridegroom appears, she will be led to Him and enter into the palace of the King. Then heavenly, eternal joy and delight will be on her head. May God bring us to this for Christ’s sake! Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria