There’s a theme in our readings today: God’s gift of marriage. And it is worth noting that marriage is His gift.

In our upside-down Alice-in-Wonderland world, where words are losing their meaning, it’s more important than ever before to work out some basic definitions. Marriage is the lifelong union between one man and one woman in heart, body, and mind. It is a union instituted by God in paradise, even before humanity’s fall into sin. Marriage is for the mutual help, support, and companionship right through it all – through the good, the bad, and the ugly – trusting that God will bless in every circumstance. The gift of marriage is also given for the gift of children when God wills it. That they would be raised in the true faith and offer God their worship and praise.

Marriage can never ever be between two men or between two women or any variety or arrangement other than what God has given. It’s an impossibility. It’s an overturning of God’s natural order. It’s a perversion also of the gift of friendship. And it’s no loving act to lend support to any sinful arrangement that God has prohibited in Holy Scripture.

Jesus said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female … therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?”

For those who struggle from same-sex attraction or any disordered attraction, the church and her ministers are ready for you – they are standing vigil – available for confession and absolution, for spiritual care and consolation from God’s Word. Because in the Word of the Gospel there is forgiveness. There is refreshment. There is strength to be found.

And it’s important to remember, after all, that God intends for you only the fulfilment of your greatest desires, and the happiest of pleasures, which are all to be found in Him – in a life lived in conformity with His will – at the cross – at the empty tomb – and in the resurrection of all flesh, where there is nothing but joy for all eternity.

Marriage is between a man and a woman. And what we say about it matters. Because it’s an icon of the love that Christ, our bridegroom, has for His bride, the church. The relationship between God and His people is really what’s at stake here in this marriage business. May God strengthen us all to cheerfully bear witness to the gift of marriage in these gray and latter days and so witness also to the love of Christ, who lays down His life for us.

So on to our Gospel! This morning we see Jesus’ first miracle. His first miracle could have been anything, but for Him it just had to be at a wedding – at a marriage. There was music, dancing, laughing, and celebrating but one very big problem: they ran out of wine! Mary, the mother of our Lord, is the first one to bring it to His attention.

“Woman, what does this have to do with me?” He said, “My hour has not yet come.” Sounds strange. Probably a little harsher in English than it needs to be – but those words are jam packed – bleeding with meaning – and we’ll get to that soon.

Jesus instructs the servants to fill the stone water jars with water right up to the brim, saying, “Now take some out and bring it to the master of the feast.” When the master of the feast tasted that water become wine, his eyes lit up, and he yelled over to the bridegroom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, then the poor wine, but you have saved the very best till now!” In other words, this is the sort of wine that would make Napa Valley wine snobs perk up and pay attention. Jesus did a miracle. He turned water into the very best wine.  

John the Evangelist concludes Jesus’ miracle with these words, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.”

Jesus manifested His glory first in this miracle. That word manifest is worth thinking about. It is where we get the word epiphany. The season we’re in. And this is what it’s all about: God revealing Himself – manifesting Himself – making Himself known in the person of His Son.

In our first reading today from Exodus, Moses in one of his bolder moments asks for God to manifest some glory too. He was just hoping to catch a little glimpse of that glory but the Lord answered him, “You can’t see My face, for man shall not see Me and live…”

So He put Moses in a cleft in the rock and the Lord passed by; Moses only saw His back. Moses only got a glimpse.

But there would come a day when we would come face to face with the one to whom Moses was speaking. That reading from Christmas morning should still be ringing in our ears here: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” You see, the God who spoke to Moses and passed by in the cleft of that rock, that’s the one John insists that we meet in the flesh of Jesus. He is the special guest at Cana in our Gospel today.  

This morning when the wine runs out, Jesus gives that curious response: “My hour has not yet come.” But his hour would come. His greatest hour. His glorification on the cross. Moses only caught a glimpse of that glory in the cleft of the rock, but now on the stony soil of Golgotha, from the cleft of Jesus’ pierced side flows a gusher of mercy. Water from that rock – blood from that pierced side – forgiveness and life for sinners. God’s glory was on full display in the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ. A sight so beautiful that Moses could hardly have dreamed of it.  

The wedding at Cana is the first miracle. It’s a sign pointing us to the cross, where Jesus provides refreshment for the whole world through His holy blood.

Jesus’ first miracle reveals God’s glory. He turns water into wine. What an epiphany! How revealing about the character and nature of our God. A God of love and kindness. Generosity and joy overflowing. The Bible says in Psalm 104 that the Lord gives wine “to gladden the heart of man.”

So think about that as you reach out for the chalice overflowing with the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Treasure in your heart this morning this simple truth: that Jesus is the friend of human happiness. Earth’s sources of pleasure may run dry, but at Cana our Lord shows us that He’s the source of a joy that is richer and sweeter and will endure to all eternity.

Because what was done at Cana ultimately points to the final banishment of all sorrow, when God will wipe away all tears. And the water of sorrow will be turned into the wine of joy at the marriage supper of the Lamb in His kingdom. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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