By Susan Herold
I’m writing this on the first day of Winter and I am predicting there will be snow. Do you know there really are at least 30 words for snow that the Eskimos use? It’s true. Some articles say there are 50 words for snow. Each word describes a different attribute of the snow. If you know the language you would know whether you need some extra waterproof boots because the snow is wet and slushy, or if your super cold weather boots would be good because it is that squeaky super icy but sparkly snow. That’s pretty handy to know.
We add words to our dictionary all the time. Like regifting or ginormous. Both of these words were born from popular entertainment. In January 2021, Merriam-Webster added 520 new words and definitions to the dictionary. That's hundreds of words and phrases that have reached enough popularity to fall under the umbrella of common usage and that have gone through an official process before being given the dictionary's stamp of approval.
My favorite addition to the dictionary this year is “Hygge”. You can look up the definition. The reason that it is my favorite is that we adopted it into our dictionary because it is being used widely enough to be considered common usage. It’s a Danish word that is now an English word because we used it enough.
What does this have to do with Advent? The fourth Advent candle we light before the Christ Candle is the Love candle. This is one of the most beautiful candles to light and celebrate during this season. This candle represents the unconditional love our God has for us and it ties into Easter. It is represented in the verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He loved us so much that he was born through humble means and died for us all because of love. But not just any kind of love.
I was at a dinner on Sunday where I was reminded that our English language doesn’t do the word “love” much justice. This man was Polish and told us there are many words for love in the Polish language. We know this from the Greek as well. In the bible we can find 4 Greek words for love:
- Storge – empathy bond.
- Philia – friend bond.
- Eros – romantic love.
- Agape – unconditional love.
The love we celebrate with this candle lighting is Agape love. They have 8 different words to describe love in Polish but unconditional love looks like this:
bezwarunkowa miłość. That is a mouthful. (No. I am not Polish but I have always had a fascination with languages and entomology.)
Unconditional love (Agape) was born when Jesus died on the cross for us. It isn’t just a feeling, and just using the word ‘love’ doesn’t offer enough information for us to respond appropriately. Unconditional love is like no other love imaginable. Can it even be considered an earthly love? Only God can love this way. I am thankful that we have the ability to add some descriptors to our words so that we can begin to grasp the kind of love we are talking about. Perhaps, if we all started to use the word Agape we could add it to our dictionary like we did the word Hygge. Perhaps, if we began to grasp the true meaning of this love that God has for us, we would respond in a different, and meaningful way. Could we love our neighbor? Could we show love for a stranger, an enemy, or a homeless person the way God shows love to us? How will you respond to His Agape in the coming year? A love this big begs us to respond with the same exuberance to love God and love people. Essentially putting into practice Matthew 22:37-40 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:’Love your neighbor as yourself’. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
We won’t do this perfectly because we are human, but we can keep practicing Agape and get it right with God’s help in order to share the gospel with the world.