Advent and the Power of Beauty

The birth of our first baby caught me by surprise. For nine months, as I plowed through my second year of college, I knew I would be a father but was unprepared when it finally happened. Holding my son Stephen, only minutes old, profoundly affected me. 

Babies illustrate the powerful truth that beholding beauty moves us. 

Think about it for a moment: babies won’t clean or cook or shovel snow, yet we are moved deeply by their beauty. Our hearts fill with emotion at each smile, stirring us to action—to hug, to hold, to cuddle, to protect. Such is the power of beauty. Whether an eagle’s nest view of the Rockies, a prairie sunset splashed across the open sky, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel or Sibelius’ seventh symphony—beauty moves us.

In scripture, this truth is even more amazing as we discover we are moved to the point of complete transformation by contemplating the beauty and glory of Jesus. 

“Babies illustrate the powerful truth that beholding beauty moves us.” Pictured: Bill’s wife, Bev, and newest grandson, Aden (the son of Stephen).

Paul writes to the Corinthian believers, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s [Jesus] glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Rich with meaning

The word glory appears more than 600 times in the Bible and is rich with meaning. It combines the weight and importance of something or someone with the concepts of praise, wonder, perfection, or beauty.

Think of gold’s heaviness and value. An ingot the size of a cell phone box weighs 25 pounds and is worth almost half a million dollars. Precious, rare, and considered one of the finest of all metals, gold is the go-to metal for currency and jewelry. 

Paul’s invitation to contemplate Christ’s glory means to ponder who Jesus is, to see His beauty and perfection. We are to contemplate, not simply look or give passing glances. A notable difference. We look at light bulbs, but gaze at sunsets. Contemplating starts with a deliberate pause and leads to reflecting with our entire being.

To what end? To be transformed into Christ’s image with ever-increasing glory. 

Contemplating the beauty and glory

On this point, it is hard to improve on the words of the 17th century pastor, Stephen Charnock.

Contemplating the beauty and glory of Jesus changes the soul into the image of the object; it makes it like Christ. Never did any look upon Christ with a believing eye, but he was made like Christ. A deformed person may look on a beautiful object and not be made beautiful; but faith looking on Christ transforms a man and turns him into his likeness. Looking on a bleeding Christ causes a soft-bleeding heart; looking on a holy Christ causes sanctity of heart; looking on a humble Christ makes the soul humble. As the chameleon is changed into the color of that it looks upon, so faith, looking at Christ, changes the Christian into the likeness of Christ.

A perfect reflection

We are transformed to be like Jesus as our hearts and minds are captivated by His beauty and glory. This is the process of sanctification—reflecting the character of Jesus more and more every day. Equally amazing? That seeing fully the beauty of Jesus will one day make our transformation complete, leading to our glorification.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be, has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2).

Whether by faith through spiritual eyes (sanctification) or by sight through the eyes of our new bodies (glorification), our transformation from sinful and rebellious creatures to righteous and holy children comes from gazing upon our beautiful Saviour. 

Which leads us to the ongoing significance of Advent and why it is worth our reflection. Without God revealing who He is through Jesus, we could not look upon God; our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite.

Another Puritan theologian, John Owen, writes this:

“God in His immense essence is invisible unto our physical eyes, and will be so to eternity; as also incomprehensible unto our minds. For nothing can perfectly comprehend that which is infinite, unless it is infinite itself. Wherefore the blessed and blessing sight which we shall have of God will be always ‘in the face of Jesus Christ.’”

Invisible made visible

It is because the triune God took the initiative and through the will of the Father, the power of the Spirit, and the willingness of the Son to step into His creation, that the invisible God is visible in the God-man, Jesus.

The incarnation is the wonder, glory, and splendor we celebrate and ponder during Advent. Never has history seen such a beautiful act. Ponder and rejoice: that while we were still sinners, rebellious and helpless to save ourselves, God was stirred to action. The eternal, the perfect, the beautiful—took upon Himself the nature of creation, so that by faith—and one day by sight—we could see Him who first loved us.

Bill McCaskell is the national director for One Hope Canada.

READ THE HOPE BLOG ADVENT SERIES

Read Part One: Rediscovering the mystery of God with us

Read Part Two: The Hope of Christmas: Past, Present and Future

Read Part Three: Finding Peace: Three Things You Can Do This Christmas

Read Part Four: Laying Down a Life of Love

Read Part Five: Hold on to Joy: Pressing in to Jesus During a COVID Christmas