Summary: All of us need to hear God’s love in a fresh way. Some say they do not want an encounter, but they do. Some do not expect anything new. Some are just past their first thrill of knowing Christ. Some have never exercised faith. Christ waits to receive

Just about everybody ought to get married, at least once. There’s nothing quite like it in all the world.

Everybody ought to have the experience of learning the difference between fantasy and reality. That’s what happens when you get married.

Everything up to marriage is fantasy. It’s romance, or at least it’s supposed to be. It’s an unreal world of primping and posing, trying to impress that significant other. Everything prior to marriage is what we used to call courtship. I don’t guess that name is used anymore; it probably went out with the front porch swing! But, whatever you call it, before marriage it’s a fantasy game, it’s trying to be something more than you are. It’s trying to translate those special feelings for that certain someone into actions to impress.

And that, good friends, is a complete fantasy, which is about to be broken up by that harsh reality we call marriage. Marriage is not about romance. Marriage is about paying the bills. Marriage is not about fantasy; marriage is about keeping the house sort of clean and putting food on the table and going to work every morning. Marriage is not about layers of makeup and magnificently coifed hair and spiffy clothes. Marriage is about babies, diapers, school, and tuition. The tough, grueling labor of making a relationship work.

And that’s true, I believe, even if in this age a lot of folks have decided that they can live together without benefit of marriage. It’s true, even of cohabiting couples, because I think I could show you, if I had to, that until couples make a concrete covenanted commitment, they are still living in a make-believe world, from which either of them can retreat at any time. And that’s unreal.

So marriage, I am saying, is tough, hard-boiled, and realistic. But wouldn’t you like more? Wouldn’t you like a touch of romance again? Like the old wife, in "Fiddler on the Roof", who was asked, "Do you love me?" And she replied, "For thirty six years I’ve washed your clothes, fed your face, raised your children, and listened to your stories. And you want to know if I love you? If that’s not love, what is?" Yes. All right. We agree. But don’t we also feel a little, too, of what her husband felt? Doesn’t this ring true too? "But do you love me? Do you LOVE me?" Something down inside that wants a hint of the old romance? Wouldn’t you just like to be swept off your feet and carried away from all that reality business?

In the middle of life’s everydayness, wouldn’t most of us want to have a fresh encounter with something exciting? Wouldn’t most of us, wouldn’t you, like to have the old cobwebs blown away and some relationship refreshed? I would. I would.

Maybe that’s why Jesus chose the picture of the bridegroom to tell us a little about the excitement of a fresh encounter. When the bridegroom comes, you just can’t have business as usual. When the bridegroom comes, you celebrate. You rejoice. You get tensed up and excited. When the bridegroom comes, there will be a fresh encounter.

Let me illustrate. I know all about bridegrooms. It is not only that I was one once, a long time ago. It is also that I have herded many a nervous bridegroom along toward his execution, or, I mean, his celebration. They stand back here in this little cubbyhole just outside this door, and they are nervous. Their knees knock, their palms go sweaty, they worry about their lines, they forget who has the rings, they wonder how they look. All kinds of things happen. And, without being too crude about it, I will just say that he is an architectural genius, whoever put next to the spot where the bridegroom waits, the men’s room!

But then comes the moment of transformation. Then comes the encounter moment. The music sounds, we walk out right about here and stand. The music continues; two clumsy ushers build the tension up real high because they cannot get the aisle cloth unrolled. Then bridesmaids, ring bearer, flower girls … and over here somebody is sweating buckets. Ah! But wait. The doors close; there is the rustle made by yards and yards of white cloth. And when the doors open there is a vision of sheer loveliness, absolute fantasy, his heart’s desire. Never, in the whole history of humanity, was there a lovelier bride. Never, never, in the annals of time, was there a sweeter young woman. And never, never, never again, he hopes, will he have to go through this again! But in that moment, he celebrates! In that moment, no matter how long and how well they have known each other, he is having a fresh encounter! This is new, different! Yes, this is the same woman he has been seeing for a long time. Yes, he knows her moods and her thoughts. But this, this is a fresh encounter. This is a memory to carry him a long, long time! A fresh encounter.

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