And so we begin …
2017 in review
This blog is organized into the liturgical season of the Christian calendar and so while December is the last month of most calendars; it represents the beginning of the church calendar. Advent means coming and it is a season of preparation. It is, though, also a season of review. Many find this conflicting but for me, it makes sense. We cannot prepare for the future if we do not review where we have been and learn from the past.
This Advent we will review the topics and some posts from 2017, beginning with the very first post from Advent 2016. Advent 2016 was a blog series about grace, a commodity of which there is precious little in our world. Oddly enough, grace is one of those words that, although simplistic in its form and spelling, it really rather complicated with multiple meanings. My first post on grace rather summed it up. Entitled “O.M.H”, it discussed our human nature and why we need something like grace.
I began by discussing a presentation from June 20, 2011 when filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg gave a TED talk on gratitude. For the past twenty years, people all over the world have given and listened to oral presentations sponsored by TED, a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of these short, powerful talks. It began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. TEDx events are independently operated local presentations that help share ideas in communities around the world.
Schwartzberg employed his skills as a filmmaker and previewed two interviews for an upcoming project of his entitled “Happiness Revealed” in the particular discussion on gratitude. As he introduced the brief filmed interviews which featured the stunning time-lapse photography of nature that he is known for, he used a popular slang term – “O.M.G.”.
In English this popular acronym stands for “Oh my God” and is used both pleasantly and in shock and horror by people of all ages. Little children are shown on commercials seeing a new bicycle for the time screaming it much the same of older people appear on camera to say it when surprised. Schwartzberg, however, did not use it in a trendy fashion. He explained it. He asked his listeners to think about what they were saying and hearing and gave one beautiful explanation.
“Have you ever wondered what that [O.M.G.] meant? The “oh” means it caught your attention, makes you present, makes you mindful. The “my” means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard. And “God”? God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life.”
I discussed how Advent is a liturgical season which captures our attention. The first season on the liturgical calendar, Advent is the “oh”, a season whose purpose is to grab our attention. It is the new beginning on such a calendar, the season that ushers in a new year and because of this, we are encouraged to be present and mindful of what we believe and how what we do, think, say, and act conveys those beliefs.
Even if you do not believe in Advent, everything you do illustrates who you are, what you believe, and how you live. The “my” when we utter it connects us and who we are to the present, to what is happening right in front of us or what we have heard about happening somewhere else. When we hear of six children dying in a senseless school bus crash and say “O.M.G.”, we are connecting to the pain that must be felt by their families. Saying it in shock as yet another terrorist action takes place or a natural disaster is experienced, does indeed as Schwartzberg explains “creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard.”
Over the past almost four years that I have been writing this blog, we have discussed sacred spaces and holy creation stories as well as mythologies that are not perhaps quite so holy. This blog is read in over forty-three countries and I have delighted in hearing from a diverse group of people. That is why I truly respect and adore the definition Schwartzberg, considered one of the best naturalist cinematographical artists ever, give to the “g”, the “God!” in this colloquialism.
“God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we’re connected to a universe that celebrates life,” Louis Schwartzberg explains. Whether you consider yourself to be religious or spiritual, atheist or Buddhist, young or old, we are indeed all on a personal journey. We do all want life to inspire us and yes, even the most hardened curmudgeon desires connection to the universe.
During Advent 2016, the beginning of the liturgical 2017 year, we discussed a commonly held concept in the entire world. It is a concept that gives life to how we explain the beauty of a butterfly dancing through the air as well as the kindness of a stranger. It is the one action that connects us to each other when we experience it, that illustrates our own personal journey, which takes us out of the basement of the everyday and creates something very similar to a miracle made by humans. It is grace.
Grace is a word that most of us have heard used in a variety of ways. Some claim it is, as a concept and undeserving gift, the foundation of the Bible and explaining it is what the Bible exists to do. Others use it as an adjective to describe action of movement. In the next twenty=eight days we will explore all its definitions and yes, there are many.
The word ‘grace” has its history in twelfth century Middle English dialect. It was derived from the Anglo-French and as a romance language, taken from the Latin “grati” meaning a favor, charm, or thanks, and also from the Latin “gratus” which meant pleasing or grateful. All were considered akin to the Sanskrit “gṛṇāti” which translates as “he praises”. In Hebrew grace is “chen” from a root word “chanan” which is defined as “to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior”. In Greek “charis” is the word for grace and is refers to a “graciousness in manner or action, derived from the root word “chairo” which meant “to be cheerful, happy”.
All of our modern-day definitions for the word “grace” illustrate its varied etymology and all are correct. Grace has, in all its manifestations, one common element – the human experience. And so, out title today is a derivation on that popular slang term Louis Schwartzberg so wonderfully described. In our discussion of grace we will, hopefully become attentive to how we live it and connect it to each other, making it “O.M.H.” – “Oh, my human.”
You see, grace is something we all would like to share and without remembering our human connection to each other, we will fall short of that wish. Regardless of your age, condition, belief system or lack thereof, grace is still salvation from the human condition that we all need, not only to survive but to thrive. Today truly is the first day of the rest of our lives, the advent of our living!