In looking at the truth and goodness of Jesus, I would not have thought of Jesus as exemplifying beauty a few years ago. But, since coming on staff at a church plant which has emphasized truth, goodness, and beauty as core values, I have seen how Jesus and the story of Advent embody beauty. Indeed, it may be the beauty of Jesus which is most neglected yet may be the most compelling to my religious and irreligious millennial peers,
While I can’t discuss a philosophy of aesthetics in this post, I will assume that three things display beauty in this world, and that Jesus at his first Advent exemplifies these qualities of beauty. First, beauty is paradoxical. Second it is dark. Third, it is hopeful. I will paste stanzas from Advent hymns that communicate these points.
The Paradox of Beauty
Once did the skies before Thee bow;
A virgin’s arms contain Thee now,
While angels, who in Thee rejoice,
Now listen for Thine infant voice.
See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
Who is this so weak and helpless, Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered, coldly in a manger laid?
’Tis the Lord of all creation, Who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting, and to everlasting God.
The Darkness of Beauty
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Who is this, a Man of sorrows, walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping, over sin and Satan’s sway?
’Tis our God, our glorious Savior, Who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth, where no tear can dim the eye.
Who is this? Behold Him shedding drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected, mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
’Tis our God, Who gifts and graces on His church now poureth down;
Who shall smite in righteous judgment all His foes beneath His throne.
Who is this that hangeth dying while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors, torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
’Tis the God Who ever liveth, ’mid the shining ones on high,
In the glorious golden city, reigning everlastingly.
The Hope of Beauty
Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
A final thought. The story of Advent, the story of the gospel, is the only story in human history where God dies for his enemies. In that gospel/Advent fact alone is paradox, darkness, and hope. In that gospelicious truth and goodness there is the exemplification of beauty – a beauty that is not found in any other religion narrative, philosophy, or worldview.