If you want to talk about excellent words that have fallen out of use in our everyday discourse, I'll put "behold" up there on the list.
I'll also include "posthaste" and "forsooth," but that's beside the point.
Behold is the kind of word that carries with it a sense of gravitas, a jen a sais quoi, if you will. It can't easily be placed in a box or described. It's the kind of word that, if used properly, can provide the very thing you're looking for when you are feeling fairly awesome about something you are sharing with others.
"Behold, I have arrived fashionably late for the party, looking fabulous."
"Behold, my Christmas lights are on point this year."
Bringing back behold is something I can put my arms around. I know there are probably more seemingly important things to channel my energies doing, but I've got some to spare, so behold is going to benefit because of it.
Advent seems like a good time to do this because so many Christmas carols employ the word "behold." After all, it is a massive part of the Christmas story, particularly in the King James Version of the Bible.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "behold" is defined this way:
To see or observe (a thing or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one).
Here's the thing, though. Far too many of us end with beholding. At Christmas, we symbolically gather around the manger with the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and a host of fairly tidy farm animals, and we simply behold.
And then we move on. We return to whatever we did before the moment's wonder and quietly believe it was enough to simply behold.
But author Evelyn Underhill puts it like this:
Beholding his glory is only half our job. In our souls, too, the mysteries must be brought forth; we are not really Christians till that has been done. "The Eternal Birth," says [Meister] Eckhart, "must take place in you." And another mystic says human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet.
If we are to become the people God longs for us to be, we must do much more than be beholding. We must learn what it means to be reborn every single day of our lives.
And when I say "reborn," what I mean is that we awaken with the knowledge that we don't have to live as we did yesterday if how we lived yesterday was life-giving and love-spreading.
We don't have to give in to the passions that would lead us to turn from God's glory in order to seek our own. We don't have to be filled with prejudices that keep us from loving our neighbor. We can be reborn.
So, during this Advent season, practice what it means to behold, and then learn what it takes to let the glory you are beholding shape and transform you through the mystery of Salvation, which is renewed every morning.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and forever. Amen.