Last year around this time, I posted a series of reflections called “Spotting Jesus” (read those posts here). To me, Advent has become a three-fold celebration. Of course most commonly we look back in celebration of Jesus’ first coming. We also look forward to Jesus’ return. Jesus has physically appeared once, and he will physically appear again. But during Advent I also like to focus on the here and now – where does Jesus appear in my everyday life?
I hope to post a few of these reflections this year, too. My first “spotting” has actually taken place a few times over the last couple of weeks.
A month ago, I was blessed to be able to attend a celebration for the release of a new translation of the New Testament into the local Roma language. At that celebration, I purchased a few of these new Bibles, because I knew I’d have lots of opportunities to share them. Since then, I’ve been giving copies to a few key people, hoping for both feedback on the translation (which I can’t yet read), and praying for opportunities to purchase and distribute more.
Any translation is a time-consuming process, and there’s cause to celebrate anytime a new translation is released – most especially into a language which has had few or no translations. Before this I had not taken much time to reflect, to understand just how blessed** we are as English speakers to have so many versions of the Bible in our language. When I was a pastor in Virginia and I encountered some problem while preparing Bible studies and sermons, I could go to the shelf in my office and find at least 10 different translations. If those didn’t help, I could go to the internet and find dozens more. I certainly didn’t have to go digging into Bibles in one of my weaker second languages (Spanish or Slovak, for instance) just so I could hear what God has to say.
So I was pretty sure that when I gave these Bibles to people, they would at least be interested in this new translation. What I didn’t expect was the surprise, the wonder and the actual joy!
“You mean this is in Romanes? ALL of it is in Romanes?”
“And this is even in OUR Romanes (our local dialect)!”
[calling someone over] “Have you seen this? It’s a Bible, in our Roma language!”
I didn’t expect the delight on their faces as they read the words aloud. Even though some of them haven’t read much in their own language, the translation is written in a way they can pronounce it as if they were reading Slovak. When they heard the familiar words coming out of their own mouths, their eyes lit up with joy!
To get theological for a moment, perhaps we don’t often realize what a miracle it is that the Word of God can speak to us in our own language. In a way it’s a miracle similar to the one that happened so many Christmases ago – that’s what we celebrate, that the Living Word, the Son of God, took on human flesh and expressed God in a human way. In the same way, anytime you read or hear the Written Word and can understand it, you know that this Ancient Word has taken on English form… and you can know that this Word is speaking directly to YOU.
So these past few days, I’ve spotted Jesus in the faces and voices of people hearing God’s Word in their own native language. I’ve seen reflections of the Word of God as it has been “incarnated” into English, Slovak and Roma. It’s an amazing thing to behold… an Advent that we too often overlook.
Where have you spotted Jesus this week?
* – I wasn’t sure whether to use this word. By “blessed,” I don’t mean to say, “God has blessed us more than other people because God has given us so many translations.” Rather, I mean, “We should thank God that we have had the Bible in the English language so long that we can have so many good translations.” In this case I think “blessed” is a better choice than “fortunate!”