Tuesday, December 15 —by Lois Snavely

Matthew 18:18-20 (The Message)
“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

Casper Ter Kuile in his book The Power of Rituals: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices uses the metaphor of communion to talk about the big magic of doing things together. “By sitting down together, we signal that we need one another…Theologians tend to focus on what happens to the food: Does it become Jesus’s body? Or does it merely symbolize it? But Orthodox Christian theologian Alexander Schmemann doesn’t ask those questions. Instead, he writes in his book For the Life of the World that ‘we must understand that what “happens” to bread and wine happens because something has, first of all, happened to us.’ It is because we have gathered together – in Schmemann’s understanding, as a church community – that the bread and wine have changed. In this sacred time together, he writes, ‘we…are standing beyond time and space.’”

If we are standing beyond time and space, if Sabbath and the Eucharist and the Church body is something beyond time and beyond physical space, then it is not HOW we gather in this time of distance and virtuality, it is THAT we gather that brings the Divine into our midst. It can feel in this Advent season of our lives that the liminality and ambiguity of the waiting has stolen something precious from us. But as good as it will be someday when we arrive at the Christmas Morning of “normalcy” and we are able to gather in person, to hug and laugh and sing together, we should not discount the holy that has happened when we’ve virtually gathered together, beyond time and beyond space.

We should also not discount the lessons we learned as a global community who banded together even beyond physical space. We all united together in God’s name – the name of Love, the name of Justice and Equity, the name of Health and Sacrifice. Let us not forget that when we called on the names of God, God showed up in the midst of us, and it wasn’t because we were all standing together maskless in one room. May that same God show up during our global Christmas morn.

God, we call on Your name as we gather together across time and space. Let us never forget the lessons we learned in this, the Advent season of our lives. As we see light at the end of the tunnel with talk of vaccines and normalcy, let us remember the “we” that showed up, that came together. Let us remember the thing that happened to us in the time of waiting, and help us to bring it forward into the dawn of Christmas morning.