An Awful, Amusing and Artificial Christmas

Word meanings change over time. There is a great story that, nearing the end of the construction of the Cathedral of St Paul, the queen was taken on a tour of the nearly-finished cathedral by the chief architect, Sir Christopher Wren.  When the visit was complete, the queen told Wren in no uncertain terms that the new building was amusing, awful, and artificial. I would have been devastated, but remarkably, Wren was quite pleased.  Why? Because in the 1600’s, “amusing” meant “amazing,” “awful” meant “awe-inspiring,” and “artificial” meant “artistic.” See, word meanings change over time. In fact, until the beginning of the 19th century, weddings were still described as “awful ceremonies” (maybe many should still be described that way today!). I wonder if that is what is going on in Luke 1, that the words we understand to mean “good” and “wonderful” meant something else to Mary. When the angel visits Mary