For Noel On Our 30th Wedding Anniversary

Thirty Stanzas

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Listen, listen, now to Jesus,
Maker of the earth and sky,
Is he not the One who frees us
From the fear that we may die?

Listen, listen, now to Jesus,
Loving whom he did betroth!
O, the price he paid to seize us
Not with charm, but blood and oath.

Listen, listen, now to Jesus,
Though his words at first dismay.
Love aims not at first to please us,
Lovers, lovers, learn his way.

Listen how he gives an answer
To the Sadducees on death:
Does a marriage end with cancer?
Does a covenant need breath?

Listen to his painful teaching
For the lover and his wife,
Like a surgeon slowly reaching
For the deeply-piercing knife.

Were the skeptics only jesting,
When they spoke of seven dead?
What was this but clever testing?
Here is what the Master said:

* * *

"Go and learn your Bibles better,
And the power of the Lord;
You have stumbled on the letter,
And the Spirit you've ignored.

"Seven husbands had this lady;
Each one died, and then the wife.
Now you ask your questions weighty:
What about the afterlife?

"I will tell you what's intended:
In the resurrection day,
Marriage bonds will all be ended,
As you've known them on the way.

"You will be like angels crying,
'Holy,' all with one accord,
Ever living, never dying,
In the presence of the Lord."

* * *

Thus he spoke the words of glory.
And should they be grief to me?
How shall I regard this story
On our anniversary?

Shall I hear this as a blessing
In the presence of my wife?
What indeed are we expressing
By the union of our life?

Does this mean what we've been making
In these thirty years of love,
Will be ended by the taking
One of us in death above?

All the fabric we have woven
Tenderly with fragile thread -
Will it all at last be cloven
With one blow, when we are dead?

Will the metal we are forging
In the furnaces of pain,
Be like fluid waste disgorging,
And our suffering in vain?

Did he not himself remind us
How God made us so to mesh,
Male and female he combined us,
Two have now become one flesh?

Did he not with words of wonder
Tell us what the Lord designs:
Let no mortal put asunder
What almighty God combines?

Or was this but for the reason
We might see that God creates
Marriage only for a season,
Then the Maker separates?

What becomes then of the meaning:
You the church and I the Christ,
If when death is intervening
Head and body then are sliced?

Is the covenant so brittle
Death can break it, make it loss?
Would this marriage not belittle
What Christ purchased on the cross?

If grim death nor life can sever
Jesus from his blood-bought bride,
Why would not his wisdom ever
Make our marriage coincide?

* * *

Then you spoke to me and blended
Mind to mind: "Did Jesus say,
'Marriage bonds will all be ended
As you've known them on the way'?

"Could it be, then, he would answer,
'All is not dissolved by death;
Something does survive the cancer;
Covenants do not need breath?

"'Something dies, and yet prevailing,
Something lives beyond the earth?'
Will our union, still travailing,
Not yield heaven one more birth?

"Though we be like angels crying,
'Holy,' round the throne above,
There will be more beauty flying
For the triumphs of our love.

"Heaven will preserve the glory
Graven in our lives with tears.
Else would God not tell the story
Of his grace for thirty years.

"You have never loved me vainly,
Nor have I rejoiced for nought.
God will tell this story plainly:
'This is what the Bridegroom bought.'"

* * *

This, Noel, has been well-spoken.
How I love your healing light.
Often when my wing is broken,
You have given back my flight.

Now, come let us be a-flying,
Like the angels in our love,
Burning, shining, ever crying,
'Holy,' to the Lord above.

If we make Him our vocation
While we have our common breath -
Christ alone in adoration -
We will never part in death.

* * *

Epilogue

Three small candles in their place,
Each a decade full of grace.
Jesus, thanks for thirty years,
Triumph over all my fears.
Let the fire of candle four
Light the path to thirty more.
And when those are spent and past
Let us fly to You at last.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org