Last night Marion and I had the privilege of participating in a Bar Barakah ceremony for Evan, a young man whose family have become good friends of ours. Bar Barakah is best described as a Christian Bar Mitzvah – a family ceremony of blessing and releasing into adulthood for young men and women. Having done something similar for each of our own children, Marion and I thoroughly enjoyed being invited to share in another family’s rite of blessing over their son.
Many good words were spoken over Evan’s life last night, and there was much merriment as members of the family celebrated his life, described his unique personality, and chuckled over inside jokes and stories. This was all good fun, but the evening – while thoroughly enjoyable – was much more than just an excuse for a party. In celebrating Evan’s life, we were celebrating life as God intends it to be lived. This was more than just a “feel good” time – there was real weight and substance to it. In the presence of those who mean most to him, this fortunate young man was called to take his place as a disciple of the Coming One, and challenged to live out his life as a man of honour and purpose. The underlying conviction that anchored this wonderful event was the conviction that there truly is hope, that life makes sense, that being human is a journey with a purpose and a destination.
Such a ceremony only makes sense if we believe that we have a real and substantial hope. Otherwise it’s just empty words.
To put it another way, such a ceremony only means something if we realize that Jesus is more than a fairy tale.
People who live with no awareness of God the rest of the year may still have a place for a cutesy, fairy-tale Baby Jesus in their Christmas celebration, right alongside Santa Claus and the elves. But we all know Santa isn’t real. If your parents told you Santa was real, and later he turned out to be just a fairy tale, what about Jesus? Do you think of him as a fairy tale character too? If your faith in Jesus is like your childhood faith in Santa Claus, it won’t take you very far.
My son Reuben is getting married one week from today, and our whole family is full of anticipation. We are all looking forward to this wonderful event. In just a few days, Reuben and Jess will exchange their vows of faithfulness and begin a new life together. Of course, like every couple that falls in love and plans to marry, they have been building a relationship for quite some time now. Still, the making of a marriage covenant is a pivotal moment, an act of great meaning and power, as the bride and groom exchange promises of life-long faithfulness in the hope and expectation that those promises will be kept.
Marriage is not a fairy tale, as anyone who has been married for a few years can attest. In fairy tales, everything always turns out right. In marriages, it sometimes doesn’t. In fairy tales, everything seems sugar-coated and too good to be true, but every real-life marriage has its challenging and unpredictable moments. There are real risks, but there is also real promise. A good marriage can lead to much joy and has the potential to bring forth a family line that blesses the earth for generations to come.
When Reuben and Jess exchange their wedding vows, they will promise to forsake all others for the sake of the one they love, and they will anchor their hope on the faithfulness of their marriage partner. They will promise to be faithful to one another for life. This is no small commitment, but I know God is faithful, so I have every confidence that as they place their reliance on the Holy One, Reuben and Jess will find the grace to keep their vows, and will find much joy and blessing in their marriage. My hope and prayer for them is that as they walk the road of life together, they will walk with the real Jesus, who is no fairy tale but absolutely real, and will anchor their ultimate hope not in each other but in Him who is faithful even when we are not.
That’s my prayer for you as well. God bless you.