Once upon a time, a beautiful prince lived in a beautiful castle. However, his beauty was only skin-deep. He was conceited and unfeeling, feared by the people. One winter’s night an old woman came to the castle door seeking help. She begged the prince to give her warmth against the night’s cold. She begged for shelter lest she die. He only laughed. “Get out!” shouted the prince, “You’re old and ugly.” Little did he know that the woman was sent to test him? For his selfish, unfeeling way, she placed a curse upon him. “You will cease being a beast,” she said, “if someone beautiful falls in love with you.” As the beast turned away in agony and shame, tears in his eyes, he said, “But who could ever love a beast?”
It is felicitous that during the Christmas season one of the most popular movies is Walt Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Here is a folk tale of lasting splendor. Some have called it the greatest love story in the world. Beauty loves the Beast. Beauty transforms the Beast. Beauty invites the Beast to look beneath his appearance. Beauty restores the Beast’s humanity. Beauty makes the Beast beautiful by loving him. “Beauty and the Beast” is a tale of loving transformation.
Yet the historic tale is insignificant in comparison to what draws us together today. If ever there was a love story for all ages, for all people, it is Christmas. Beauty. A tender child. Loving parents. A light in the sky. Shepherds to worship. Wise men bringing wondrous gifts. And the Beast? Poverty and homelessness. Foreign occupation, bureaucracy and intrigue. Escape and flight. Misunderstanding. Unrequited love. Death itself.
The beautiful child is born into a beastly world. The beastly world, at first glance, is too overpowering. However, no. Wonders of wonder, the child transforms the beast by loving it. In the face of this child is revealed a God of outrageous love and inexhaustible beauty. A God who is humble, vulnerable, sharing the wide sweep of human emotions. Beauty and the Beast. In Jesus Christ, we see and lay hold of the immense and passionate love that God is for every human being. Beauty transforms the Beast by loving it unconditionally.
You are that Beast. I am that Beast. Every woman, man, and child on this planet is that Beast. Yet, you have been transformed; I have been. You have been made beautiful; I too. Not by a touch or a kiss, rather by the selfless outpouring of one who loves you as if you were the only person ever born.
This glorious truth is what lies at the heart of your dignity. It is what lies at the heart of the dignity of every human being. In this truth of the unconditional love of Beauty for the Beast, lies the Christian case against oppressive regimes that crush and degrade the human person, against commercial systems that foster the notion that a rich person is more beautiful than a poor person, a white person more beautiful than a black person, an unimpaired person more beautiful than an impaired person, a young person more beautiful than an old person, a straight person more beautiful than a gay person.
Who could ever love a Beast? Jesus, that’s who. There is to time of the year that reminds us more of our beauty than Christmas. There is no time of the year that levels the human race more than Christmas. There is no time of the year that claims our struggle for peace on earth good will to all, than Christmas. Beauty has transformed the Beast by loving it. The Christ born this day continues to turn the Beast in ourselves and in our world into the beauty of Immanuel, God-with-us.