Last year during Advent we posted a series of reflections called “Spotting Jesus” in which we reflected on the "Advent" of Jesus around us here and now - where does Jesus appear in our everyday life? We're continuing that series this year, and the first entry is about East Slovak Romany translation of the New Testament that was published only a couple of months ago.
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.
I expected these people to be interested in these new Bibles. What I didn’t expect was their surprise, wonder and 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. Many local Roma are not used to reading their own language, but the translation is written so 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 the English, Slovak and Roma languages. It’s an amazing thing to behold… an Advent that we too often overlook.