a Christmas meditation on beauty

On Sunday, Natalie and I had the privilege of listening to Andrew Katay preach what was quite possibly the best Christmas sermon we’ve ever heard. We’ll post a link to it as soon as it becomes available.

Andrew warned us against sleeping through Christmas because it’s too familiar. And he woke us up to out how God’s incarnation as a human changes everything.

At one point, we paused to dwell on what ‘getting’ the incarnation does to our view of justice and peace in the here and now — and to the significance we attach to ordinary, bodily, material life.

Rather than emptying the present world of significance, Andrew pointed out, the incarnation affirms the reality and goodness of the world Jesus came to redeem — fleeting, messy and broken as it inevitably is.

Ours is a God who takes on flesh! This is what makes pursuing justice and peace worthwhile and not ultimately futile.

I think the same point could perhaps be made about beauty.

So, in the interests of affirming the beautiful this Christmas, I’d like to share this poem (h/t The Cedar Room):

Human Beauty
by Albert Goldbarth

If you write a poem about love …
the love is a bird,

the poem is an origami bird.
If you write a poem about death …

the death is a terrible fire,
the poem is an offering of paper cutout flames

you feed to the fire.
We can see, in these, the space between

our gestures and the power they address
—an insufficiency. And yet a kind of beauty,

a distinctly human beauty. When a winter storm
from out of nowhere hit New York one night

in 1892, the crew at a theater was caught
unloading props: a box

of paper snow for the Christmas scene got dropped
and broken open, and that flash of white

confetti was lost
inside what it was a praise of.

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