Is there a more obnoxious bit of shorthand on your screen than OMG? I doubt it.
OMG, shorthand for Oh My God, is used billions of times every day in the most inane ways. Someone tries a new flavor of coffee? “OMG, it was so good.” Someone wants to complain about the cold, exclaim over a boyfriend, gloat about a victory or crow about an algebra test score, and OMG shows up.
It’s not just the kids. Watch adults on reality shows, game shows or makeover shows, and when the weight loss is announced or the doors to the new home are opened or the grand prize is awarded, out pop the OMGs by the bucketful.
While God is certainly a part of the verbal exclamation, one has to wonder why we don’t just shorten the expression to Oh My! That seems adequate to capture the mix of surprise, annoyance or joy that goes into the OMGs that fly around us. I doubt most people uttering these words actually appreciate the deity at the end of the expression. God seems to be added only out of habit, not out of a heartfelt connection.
Unless, of course, there is a spiritual dimension to all this exclaiming. Could it be that our surprise or joy or fear is a very spiritual experience for us? Perhaps the reason Oh My God is so popular in 2010 is that no other phrase fully captures the unrecognized spiritual yearning and ache of our modern era.
Might this be an extremely veiled way of expressing our need for God amid all the unexpected and unknown in life? As a minister, I’d love to believe that such language affirms the gospel’s relevance and ensures the church’s future as the vehicle for meeting everyone’s deepest needs.
However, the truth is probably somewhere in between. OMG is more throwaway slang than we wish it were and probably a bit more of a peek into the empty soul of post-modernity than we know. What we do know is that God’s people, when they are at their best, are filled with wonder and awe at the handiwork, the grace, the love and the providence of their Creator.
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When we fully appreciate the enormity of this Advent season, we are likely left at a loss for words or we resort to stuttering and stammering. To get to such a place in December each year requires that we see beyond the décor and trappings and frantic schedules to see what is so utterly amazing about the holiday we celebrate. I probably need to worry less about what others are saying and focus more on my welcome of the Christ child.
Healthy churches and Christians find something powerful amid the Advent (and Easter) season that fuels them for the journey through the rest of the calendar. When you find it, it may be best expressed by silence or shouting or singing or slang or eloquence or even tears. It is the wonder that God became flesh, lived among us and brought us the abundant and eternal life we could never find on our own.
I hope you have a moment this holiday season, as a church and as a believer, when you come close, peer into the manger as have so many who have come before you, and utter these three words: Oh My God!
Bill Wilson is president of the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, N.C.