I didn’t blog this past week thinking that I would do some other writing. If I just finish this one thing, I so foolishly thought to myself, I’ll be able to do all the other things that are waiting for my attention—Christmas shopping, mucking out the laundry room, dreading the virtual mountain of correspondence in my email inbox, wandering uselessly around the New York Times wondering if I should cancel my four dollars a month or just keep scrolling. That last question mercifully answered itself, for here is a fantastical late-stage-civilizational-collapse-gem. One of the great benefits of covid, apparently, is the Metaverse Wedding:
Like a ceremony within a video game, though, it is important to note that any weddings that occur solely in the metaverse are currently not legal. (Even virtual weddings by videoconference, which many states allowed during the height of the pandemic shutdowns, have since been outlawed in New York State and elsewhere.) Still, the metaverse will take these virtual celebrations much, much further, experts say, and offer almost boundless possibilities to couples.
“Boundless possibilities” sounds pretty boring, honestly. Especially since metaverse weddings appear to follow the very particular fixed form human people have largely, over the course of several thousands of years, come to expect—a very expensive expert who makes big promises:
Nathalie Cadet-James, a wedding planner and designer based in Miami, is approaching the metaverse with “a beginner’s mind of excitement,” and trying to anticipate how her role will change. “I think my role might be more like a producer or film director,” Ms. Cadet-James said. “I could create a set that I’ve enhanced. Flowers might come out of the ground as you’re walking into the space. I would add whimsy and fantasy to it — because we could.” Of course, this would require the skills of a software engineer, a role not in any typical wedding budget at the moment.
Gosh, I love the word “enhanced” almost as I love “impactfulness.” Anyway, why would you want to do things this way? Well, because Zoom is still the bane of all our existences:
The experience of moving through a virtual world as an avatar — a kind of idealized version of yourself — creates a more immersive, emotionally satisfying experience than Zoom, said Ms. Gagnon. “There is a different level of connection,” with the metaverse, she said. Being a metaverse bride had other benefits, too. “I’m always a size 4, even in January,” Ms. Gagnon said, laughing. “And I never have a bad hair day.”
Which is really, I’m sure, what John the Baptist was trying to say, though he lacked the technological imagination to pull the thought together, running his rough hands through his wild hair and pondering the spiritual condition of the crowds as they bellied up to the Jordan River. What is the most immersive, emotionally satisfying experience you all would like to have? That’s what he meant to ask as they waded down into the river to be washed clean. When “you brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” came tripping off his tongue, I’m sure he was as surprised as anyone who happens to wander into, or click past, a church and hear those welcoming words muttered from the chancel steps.
It’s nearly Christmas, and so of course the thing upwards in the minds of all people is the state of their own eternal souls. What sort of person ought I to be? we ask ourselves as we fill our online carts with stuff, thanking the Metaverse that Amazon is willing to take a loss on all our shipping costs. What sort of tree am I? What kind of fruit will I produce this holiday season?
Of course, I am in jest. Most of us are not worried about our souls, not on the surface level. We want to get through the next two weeks without disappointing ourselves and our loved ones. Or perhaps I should only speak for myself. The clash of expectations—oft-discussed in the ever-narrowing circle of Christian community—is what makes Advent so wonderful. Everyone is already “celebrating” Christmas (tis the season, holly jolly, etc.) while Christians, or at least Anglicans, go on in their somber way, drinking eggnog on the sly and admonishing each other to remember that Jesus will be coming again, and probably when we least expect it. Because that’s so, it isn’t enough just to buy stuff for all the people you love, and to fight the quiet losing battle with sugar, the Christian must listen to John, there, at the Jordan, for so many Sundays.
What are you hoping to get from Jesus? you should inquire of your soul. Why did you even come to church? Will he meet your needs? For real? Or is this a “metaverse” experience where at the end of the day, you still feel thin, hollow because of all the scrolling?
“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion,” burst forth Zephaniah towards the end of his small book. “Rejoice,” he insists, joining his admonition together with that of St. Paul. Though you did not really expect it, and though you certainly did not deserve it, the Lord, the King of Israel is about to come into your midst. He will not appear on a screen. He will not gather everyone by means of sending out the link and then admitting them one by one by one. He will not glitch a little bit, just when you wanted to know most particularly what he was about to say.
No, in the flesh, in order to bring about a marriage of Himself to those who had become children of that devouring serpent, to rescue them and be with them forever, he came in person and not even online. And this is why he came–to break apart the bonds of sin that keep humanity always in the dark, to deliver up a people unbounded, free forever to love him as they should. For this reason he immersed himself in the waters of baptism, drenching himself in the sins that tore us away from him.
And this should be the joy, the fruit in keeping with repentance, that overtakes you. A good tree bears good fruit. A good tree is someone who has been translated from death to life by the Bridegroom, joined to a great throng of other believers across space and time, not by use of screens, but by the unbreakable bonds of a spiritual union. This is the reasonable, un-anxious—or at least slightly less anxious—trust in a God who does not need us to meet his expectations, who will not be disappointed when we don’t pull off the event, or buy all the presents, or meet the deadline, or show up in the right kind of outfit. He isn’t waiting for us to apologize for failing to keep everything together, as if the very joy of Christmas depended on humanity bringing peace to the earth.
No, he is the one who buys in his own blood all the good and rich gifts that we so long for. Righteousness and peace have already kissed each other. Steadfast love and faithfulness have met and made friends. Eternity waits there, right before your eyes, a table set out with care and attention for you to walk right up, in the flesh, and take hold of Christ himself.
So anyway, you can eat that cookie and it will be ok. Hope to see you in church! (online or in person…cough—or rather, don’t cough, you’ll scare everyone)