You have to be at least over thirty to remember him, I suspect. In many ways, however, he was the undisputed first voice of online life for an entire generation. Some twenty-seven million times a day, in fact, his buoyant words greeted others every time they logged on, and for a while, I was one of them.
What I didn’t discover until later on, though, was who that voice actually belonged to, a man from the Midwest whose name was Elwood Edwards. I also learned that Elwood actually met his wife over the worldwide web in a Christian chat room. It was as a favor to her, in fact, that he recorded his famous line on a cassette deck in his living room, for which he ended up being paid just two hundred bucks. And after finding all that out, I felt a more personal connection to him indeed, kind of like knowing your mail carrier, before they stopped coming to your house, that is, and left your letters in a community cubby instead.
When that otherwise disembodied voice on my computer said, “Welcome,” thus, I would generally reply, “Good morning, Elwood.” And then I would wait for him to tell me what I actually dialed in to find out. For what I really liked to hear Elwood say, even if it was grammatically incorrect, were those three special words, “You’ve Got Mail!”
And as quirky as it may sound, I’m reminded of that phrase all during this season of the year. For when the angel of the Lord told the shepherds of Beth Sahour long ago “today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you, and He is Christ the Lord,” that angel was actually just repeating the same basic message which the prophet Isaiah had centuries beforehand proclaimed, “For unto us a child is born, a son is given.” Or to put it another way, “Welcome—You’ve Got Male!”
It’s a bad play on words, of course. But I wonder what might happen if some folks had the same level of anticipation and even excitement about receiving that gift of God’s Son as they do about opening their electronic messages each morning. Oh, I understand that out of the 304.6 billion emails which are sent and received each day around the world it may be easy to overlook the significance of any one of them. But that particular Word from on High that came two millennia ago was meant to change the world forever, for that Son who was born unto us was no one less than a Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity, and even the Prince of Peace.
Like many, of course, I moved on from Elwood years ago, not long after the $164 billion merger of his company, America On-Line, with Time-Warner ended up sending AOL into a tailspin. But even after breaking off the relationship with Elwood long ago I have to confess that sometimes I still miss his cheery little greeting.
Elwood also moved on in life and is driving for Uber in Cleveland these days. But every once in a while, he will surprise his passengers by delivering his trademark line. Which makes me kind of wonder: what do you suppose might happen if every time someone wishes you “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” we simply replied, “And You’ve Got Male!”
For in fact, we all do.