What are you thinking about this Christmas season?
How you’re gonna pay for all the presents, when you’re already financially flailing?
Your thinking just might morph into panic!
How you must endure those boring holiday parties with the awkward, superficial conversations when you’re already feeling isolated and alone?
Your thinking just might mutate into panic!
How you’re gonna miss that loved one you lost last year whose absence will eclipse any hoped-for joy?
Your peace just might melt into panic!
The breathing, creative Spirit of the living Christ always breathes peace into our panicky thinking.
The warmth of the Spirit’s breath wrote this a long, long time ago through the fingers of Paul:
Philippians 4:8 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Wait. My worries didn’t make the list? Neither did my angry grudge or gnawing sense of always being behind?
· To help us follow the new thinking path of Paul consider the transcendentals.
Have you ever heard of the “three transcendentals?”
A transcendental is something that stands above everything in the physical realm.
Philosophers have always tried to find that which stands above everything below. They wanted to locate sturdy unbreakable realities that we all could rely on.
Don’t get weirded out by that quest of theirs. You’ll know them when I reveal them.
They agreed on beauty, goodness and truth.
Let’s spend a few minutes thinking about these three. Allow them to spark your interest in going back to the God-breathed transcendentals of Philippians 4:8.
First, what is Beauty?
Thomas Aquinas said that beauty is “that which when seen, pleases.”
Augustine added that beauty is the combination of clarity, symmetry, proportion, harmony and wholeness.
Think of a beautiful waterfall. It pleases the senses as it combines the sound of the thundering river, the sight of the foamy water rushing over the edge, the smell of the surrounding environment, the touch of the mist on your face and sometimes even the taste of the pure water on your tongue.
Have you ever thought about Christ through the lens of his transcendent beauty? How many ways does he please your senses as you combine the clarity, symmetry and harmony of his life? Have you ever tasted him as you read about him in the living Word? Have you ever experienced him during communion as you’ve swallowed whole his beauty?
Theology professor James Bryon Smith writes that beauty is that which makes you say “wow!”
The brilliant American pastor Jonathan Edwards taught that beauty is not only captured in creation but enjoyed by the heart.
How about spending a few minutes admiring the beauty of creation (Jesus created everything) and redemption (the combination of God’s plan to rescue sinners just might make you say wow!).
· If someone looks at you this Christmas season, would they think that you are a mini-advertisement for the beauty of God in Christ?
Second, what is good or goodness?
Goodness is that which aids or improves or benefits another. The opposite of good is evil. Evil is that which does not benefit others.
Have you ever considered just how good Christ is? He left the transcendent realm of beauty to enter into the evil, twisted wreck that we inhabit.
To do good to his people. To make us alive to beauty again.
He spent nine months entombed in Mary’s womb only to enter the world on a dark night in a damp barn.
The transcendent one came down.
He would grow up doing good and die to bring the highest benefit to the lowest, undeserving sinner.
How about spending a few minutes meditating on the goodness of God. How about thinking of tangible ways to do good to others. Who needs the benefit of your love?
Goodness fizzes gratitude up and out of our hearts.
The third and last transcendental is truth.
Truth is fact plus meaning. Truth is that which when you run into it, won’t budge because it aligns with the unbudgeable reality imbued into it by God.
My heart is so addicted to wrong things and truth is what you bang into when you’re wrong. My best friends love me too much to allow me to live into the lies I believe by reminding me of the truth of God.
Love rejoices in the truth (see 1 Corinthians 13).
Truth executes reality. When we encounter truth we instinctive shout “I agree!”
What truths can you stake your life on today? What lies are you listening too that need to be silence by the transcendent teachings of Christ?
Swiss Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar said that beauty must never be separated from her sisters, goodness and truth.
This Christmas let’s not allow ourselves to be separated from our brother Jesus as we emanate beauty goodness and truth to all.
As Dostoevsky wrote, “Beauty will save the world.”
The beautifully true and good Jesus is doing just that as he breathes peace into our panic this Christmas.
Metro North Church