Selecting the Right Emoji
Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you have used an emoji in the last seven days? How did you choose which one(s) you used? What’s your favorite? Which one do you use the most?
For the benefit of those of you who didn’t raise your hand, let’s have a brief review: “Emoji 101” we’ll call it. I say emojis are the second generation of “emoticons.” Emoticons are pictographic symbols formed by use the usual alphanumeric characters to make an approximation of a face. Usually, emoticons have to be viewed sideways to make out the image. For example, a colon and a close parenthesis form a pair of eyes and a smile, making a smiley face when viewed sideways. Emoticons (“emotional icons”) came into use when only text messages could be sent.
Of course, the more powerful cell phones and computers had no need to settle for such primitive pictures. In 1999, emojis began appearing on Japanese mobile phones and by the 2010s were appearing on all kinds of operating systems, being used in text and email messages. The word “emoji” is a combination of two words, “e” meaning “picture” and “moji,” meaning “character.” Unlike emoticons which are combinations of characters, emojis are a single pictograph.
The use of emojis in electronic messaging and on websites has become so commonplace that in 2015 the Oxford Dictionaries named the Face with Tears of Joy emoji the Word of the Year.
Like any other form of human communication, emojis have been misused and can be misinterpreted. For example, facial expressions don’t mean the same thing in all cultures and the coding for emojis don’t always translate correctly from one computer system to another. (The person on the receiving end may get a different picture than the one you sent!) Some innocent emojis have been misused as violent or obscene symbols.
Wikipedia says the the word emoji has no relation to our English word “emotion,” but a primary use of emojis is to communicate some kind of emotion. Most of them are variations of the yellow smiley face that has been with us for 50 years or more and convey a wide range of reactions and emotions.
All of that to lead up to this question. What emoji would you choose for your Christmas this year? Emojipedia.org lists 26 emojis that are specific for Christmas
<https://emojipedia.org/christmas/>, but you can choose any emoji you like.
Maybe you want to decide if you’re happy, sad, angry, confused, worshipful, or indifferent about Christmas. Knowing your own emotional state is a place to start. Then narrow down the choices by what you want to communicate. What will that facial expression or object tell others about how you’re thinking about Christmas? This may take you a while because there are 2,823 emojis available!
You know all of this is leading to a suggestion. Preachers can’t refrain from offering advice. Let’s go back to our reading from Galatians 4:1-7. Here God is teaching us that an important aspect of Christmas is that at the perfect, most opportune moment, God the Father sent God the Son to be born as a baby. He did that to set in motion His plan to save all of us from our sins. Because God sent His Son, we can be sons and daughters of God. Because Jesus lived, died, and lives again, all of us can be part of a heavenly family.
How does that make you feel?
- If you’re happy, the classic smiley face works.
- If you’re hopeful because you have a future, the emoji is a hand with crossed fingers.
- If you’re relieved that God showed grace and you don’t have to earn salvation, the emoji is a face with a slight smile, closed eyes, and elevated eyebrows.
- If you’re elated or excited, the emoji has big eyes and a huge toothy grin.
- If you’re grateful, your emoji has clasped hands and upraised eyes.
- If you want to be quiet and reverent, that emoji is a person bowing, face over hands.
The point simply is this: have a reaction! Have a profound emotional connection to God and express it! Pick your emoji and post it. Show the world that the birth of Jesus means something to you, that this Christmas is not ho-hum, hum-drum, but it has an emotional and spiritual significance to you. Celebrate Jesus and don’t hold it in!