The Royal Wedding

Friday’s royal wedding literally captured the world’s attention.  Two billion people watched Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.  To put that into perspective, one in three people on the planet tuned in to the royal marriage ceremony.

 

Every major Internet service provider reported record traffic, especially impressive given that the event occurred during off-peak hours.  Yahoo reported that it was “breaking records in terms of traffic and video consumption.”  The royal wedding set an “all-time record traffic for a live video event on Yahoo,” eclipsing the previous record, held by Michael Jackson’s funeral, by 21 percent.  “Requests per second have surpassed previous records set by the Japan earthquake, 40,000 per second at today’s peak, compared to 33,000 per second.”  By end of day Friday, Yahoo’s top two stories — “the dress” and “the kiss” — had “already driven more than 6 million clicks combined.”  On Twitter, the top ten trending words Friday were related to Wills and Kate’s wedding, and Facebook was ablaze with excited comments.

 

Needless to say, when a single event stops the civilized world in its tracks, something of relevance occurred.  Here are the things that stood out to me yesterday as I watched the elegant young couple say, “I do.”

 

First, I believe the unprecedented interest in the formal ceremony reveals a traditional longing lying just beneath the surface of our increasingly casual culture.

 

Modernist thinking spawned a rejection of traditional values.  The rejection was reactionary, rather than creative.  If tradition thought one way, modernists mechanically thought another.  If longstanding custom dressed one way for particular events, modernism – in a predictable reaction – raced to the opposite extreme.

 

This anti-traditional mindset radically shaped modern culture, with one outgrowth being that we are now extremely casual toward almost everything.  Sexual conversations, which were improper in polite company in days gone by, are now standard topics among mixed company.  Crude humor, which was once found among teenage boys or in the sports locker room, is now heard over lunch or anywhere men and women congregate together.

 

The examples are almost endless, with the end result being that very few things are held sacred anymore.  Few events stand out as so different from the norm that they call for special behavior and reverence.  Our newfound casual spirit exhibits itself frequently in casual dress.  Our downplayed wardrobes match our approach to life.

 

By way of example, visit the web site of almost any “cool” new church which is caught up in the consumer-driven approach to doing church.  If the church offers streaming video of its pastor’s sermons, you will no doubt notice that the preacher is not standing behind a pulpit, which historically symbolized the centrality of God’s Word in worship.  In many cases, the modern pastor is actually sitting down on the stage, resting his arm casually on a small table holding his coffee and Bible.  Neither is he dressed formally in a suit and tie; rather, like a puppet mimicking culture’s anti-traditional stance, he dons the obvious: something overtly non-traditional, casual.  Since tucked-in shirts are proper, then, by all means, he will leave his shirt tails hanging out.

 

Lest you think I’m snooty and stiffly uncomfortable, let me say that I love casual clothes and casual moments – in their proper time.  But surely, as wise Solomon wrote, there is a time and season for everything.  Sunday worship of the majestic, holy God who humbles Himself to join us sinners in our sanctuaries surely deserves special attention.  Formal, corporate worship is not the same thing as eating pizza with friends the night before.  Both have their moment and both call for a different attitude and approach.

 

I am not advocating a dress code for church, but I do suggest that we have lost a sense for something grand and beyond ordinary when we remove our suits and dresses and cast aside formality and tradition.  Increasingly, we refuse to see that there are certain occasions and topics which demand special treatment.  We have lost a sense of reverence for God and godliness in our full embracing of the lackadaisical, casual life.

 

Watching William and Kate’s wedding ceremony yesterday, however, prompted me to wonder if people, deep down, don’t miss the tradition and properness we have laughed at and left behind.  The royal ceremony was gorgeous, dripping with tradition, elegance, and timelessness.  The moment became bigger, as it should have, than the participants, and the wedding party and guests approached it with that spirit.  Hearing that kings and queens had been married in that same church (Westminster Abbey) for one thousand years humbled the participants.  It was a cool reminder to our day which celebrates self that we are but one person in a long line that went before us.

 

Seeing the ladies in their lovely hats and dresses; the men in their dapper suits, the military men in their smart uniforms; the ministers in their formal gowns, with William and Kate looking marvelous at the altar, it reminded me that there is still such a thing as special occasions.  And special occasions demand special treatment.  We need formality, because it interrupts normalcy.  Momentous events separate mundane life, charging it with meaning.

 

Life is not casual, twenty-four/seven.  There are times and seasons which stop us in our tracks.  We dress differently and behave more properly.  Hopefully, the pomp and circumstance prompts us to ponder life, to see its everyday nature differently.  We are called, for instance, to worship Christ every day, but God placed upon us a special call for the first day of the week.  What happens to us at worship on the Sabbath should influence the coming week.  Sunday is not Tuesday or Friday, nor should it be.  We should approach it more formally, both in dress and attitude.  The occasional interrupting of our everyday, casual lives with formality and reverence is a healthy approach to life.

 

 

The second thing which struck me about William and Catherine’s wedding is the importance of family.

 

Watching the bride and groom during the ceremony, I couldn’t help but notice that they were very comfortable with one another.  They drew on one another’s strength during the lengthy, extremely public ceremony.  By contrast, footage of Charles and Diana’s wedding (William’s parents) reveals two people who seemed to be strangers.  Their body language betrayed uneasiness and unfamiliarity, feelings which proved in the ensuing years to ruin their marriage.

 

I can’t help but admire Charles and Diana’s sons, Princes William and Harry.  Seeing them in the news occasionally, they appear friendly and approachable, nothing like their father.  I also can’t help but feel sorry for the two young men.  Clearly, their childhood home and family was not happy.  Their parents divorced when they were small boys, and then their mother, Diana, died tragically in an automobile accident, leaving the boys alone in a family which appears from the outside to be cold.

 

Something changed, however, for Prince William.  Reports suggest that he fell in love with Kate Middleton’s family.  Her parents, though fabulously wealthy now, are not noble born, nor did they come from wealth.  The Middleton family appears to be an authentic, traditional family, where Mom and Dad love each other and their children.  Life centers on the comings and goings of the family.

 

William must have been drawn powerfully to the family life which he never experienced.  He and Kate, in fact, have made it clear that they will live alone without servants.  They will cook their own meals and clean their own clothes.  In essence, they want an authentic marriage and family.

 

I find this refreshing in our casual, anti-traditional era.  Just as we have thrown formality aside, we have also cast traditional marriage aside.  Surveys reveal that a sad outgrowth of America’s staggering divorce rate is that children of divorce show very little interest in getting married.  Increasingly, many choose shacking up, and the statistics surrounding living together are atrocious.  Compared to traditional marriage, couples who cohabit face much greater risk of spouse abuse, child abuse, “divorce,” abandonment, poverty, and many other negative experiences.  Is this any surprise?  We can ignore and mock God, but we cannot escape the timelessness and consequences of His laws.

 

 

Thirdly, yesterday’s wedding ceremony reminded me of the value of hard work in a free society.

 

Returning to the Middleton family, royal blood does not flow through their veins.  In English society, they are commoners.  Prince William’s new bride, Catherine, is not officially known as a princess.  But don’t miss that this commoner is, as of yesterday morning, the Duchess of Cambridge.  She is the wife of England’s future king.  She will become a princess.  She is referred to today as “Her Royal Highness.”

 

This fairy tale could never have occurred in many of the world’s cultures.  Mankind, hopelessly prideful and endlessly cruel, is prone to embrace the axiom, “might makes right.”  Many nations are dominated by rich and powerful tyrants who keep the masses ignorant and poor.  With no hope of education and no guaranteed freedoms, these people live and die in squalor.

 

By great contrast, the Western world was significantly shaped by Christian teaching.  This is not to say that Western nations are Christian, but their laws and cultures were influenced for centuries by the Bible’s doctrines.  The inherent value of human beings, for instance, led to the abolition of human slavery.  Freedom and protection for all men created safe societies.  Biblical work ethics and calls for education fostered increasingly trained and industrious work forces.

 

These are Bible-taught maxims which Western civilizations now take for granted but are nonexistent across most of the world.  England, a once great Christian nation (sadly, no longer), nevertheless embraced these profound, godly truths, which explains the rise of the Middleton family from the status of commoners to one which saw Kate Middleton marry royalty yesterday.

 

Ultimately, seeing Kate Middleton standing at the altar of one of the world’s oldest, most ornate and celebrated cathedrals, I was reminded of how we common sinners – Christ’s bride – will someday stand in the presence of almighty God, at the greatest marriage ceremony of all, when Christ – the Bridegroom – comes to take us as His bride.  We who were nothing, with no hope in life or eternity, were nonetheless rescued by God’s amazing grace.  More, He adopted us as His children and has loved us every day of our lives.  Further, He will give us to His Son at the heavenly marriage ceremony, and we will enjoy the celebration at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

 

England’s royal wedding is a beautiful, heavenly portrait of the regal ceremony which awaits you if you are a commoner and sinner, saved by Jesus Christ.