Walking your daughter down the aisle - that magic moment.
I’ve done it no less than four times – and each time I walk even more slowly to relish the moment. Mr Markle has all this to look forward to according to the Royal Wedding Exclusive in this morning’s Daily Mirror. There we have the vivid headline “I’d love to walk Meghan down the aisle.” It seems that this reclusive dad has broken his silence to “Mirrorman Chris” who flew over specially to Mexico to give us this long-awaited news. Strangely while the story dominates the press edition there is not even a hint of the story on the Mirror website. To know more you need to buy the paper. Short pause as I scurry to the Post Office to buy my copy. An even shorter pause as I realise it’s cold outside and change my mind.. There is something very special about walking your daughter down the aisle. There is that sense of something incredibly special, epoch-making even. To quote one dad, “a beautiful mix of joy, love, and even a little wistful sadness.” Mind you, walking in a straight line isn’t as easy as it looks, especially if the whole world is watching. I remember being very impressed by the bearing of Michael Middleton as he walked Catherine down the aisle at Westminster Abbey. Clearly he has set the bar very high for Mr Markle. Talking about bars, there’s always the risk for some fathers of not being that sober. Or the danger of of tripping over your daughter’s veil. Or just walking oddly. As vicar only once I have personally witnessed a dad getting it wrong. The procession started okay but when I arrived at the chancel steps I turned round to see that somehow during the walk father and bride had swapped sides. Goodness knows how. So standing in front of me, from left to right, were the groom, the father and the bride. To begin with it looked as if I was going to marry all three. Of course the father walking his daughter down the aisle is simply a tradition from the days when daughters were in some way owned by their fathers. Nevertheless it is one which modern brides tend to hold onto. I’m not sure whether in Bible times fathers actually walked their daughters into the wedding ceremony. I guess not, going from the parables that Jesus gave on weddings. However, the arrival of the bride provides a powerful image for God’s purposes for us his people, his church. So the apostle Paul writes how Christ loves his church and gave himself up for her. His purpose? “To present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:27) Or as we find in the Message translation. “Everything (Christ) does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness.” To be honest that particular metaphor doesn’t really work for me. I guess because I’m a bloke and being thought of as radiant without stain or wrinkle doesn’t push my buttons. But I know what Paul is getting at, how through the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit we are transformed to be like Jesus. There is always something beautiful when God is at work. However, the one book in scripture which uses this image of the church as the bride of Christ in a big way is the final book in the New Testament, the book of Revelation. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)
God’s purpose is going to be fulfilled – that as we are reading in Tom Wright’s Advent book, “to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10). That’s where we are heading – despite everything that life may throw at us. Of course, this is beyond our imagination. We simply do not have the resource to grasp what God has prepared for his creation. So the writer of Revelation grabs every metaphor on offer to give us a foretaste of what is in store. “And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2) It’s where we are going and it’s worth waiting for. And you can just glimpse this glorious future as a father proudly walks his daughter down the aisle. An awesome moment, a true celebration.