I knew what he meant and as far as his intention went there was truth there. He was urging us to make beauty and that beauty mattered. A warning sign of a bad cause is when it comes wrapped in aesthetic ugliness. This is not certain, something can appear beautiful, but be disguised falsehood or evil. Overtime, however, this cannot last. Fundamentally there is in truth beauty. Stay in a plantation house as a guest long enough in the antebellum South and the ugliness of the society would be revealed. The ugliness was already apparent to the enslaved who made the veneer of beauty possible at great cost. The ugliness came boiling out to outsiders in fugitive slave laws, the reports of people who escaped slavery, and a horrific civil war to defend the “peculiar institution.” The beauty was superficial and available only to a privileged few. The ugliness was fundamental.
The opposite is true of God’s creation. We can twist and bend that creation. We can misuse the good gifts of nature, but the beauty goes deep down into the very mathematical structure of the cosmos. The universe God made is good and groans under the ugliness splashed over the splendor.
Take a stable. Look at this cave made of the good bones of the Earth. See the animals and their moral innocence. Watch the heavens that declare the glory of God every night, but especially on this most holy night. The beauty is there, was there, and will be there.
Beauty was, is, and will come. The marred will be restored. The process began the moment of the marring, but in a manner that will save all that will be saved. Nothing good will be lost, no truth will be forgotten, and all will be beautiful again. Restoration is longer than creation, but the good is fundamental, God all powerful, so the triumph of beauty is certain.
What was seen by shepherds in the sky over the stable will be seen by all: glory.
We should, best we can, create beauty around us. This is an outer response to a salvation already won. The restoration of the world was manifested as a certainty at Bethlehem and we add nothing to that certainty. We cooperate with the beauty, but Beauty has already saved the world.
This is a great relief. We can do the best we can as amateurs. I am a bad poet, but I write poetry privately on occasion doing the best I can. My goal is to create a bit of beauty imitating the God of the Nativity. My creation, such as it is, is not saving the world. It is like the shepherds rushing toward beauty that already is to bow down and worship.
Like the shepherds, my words are not elegant. They are a response, like that of those ancient herdsman, to a beauty too great for my mind, heart, and body. They are the best I can do. The good Father, the Creator, is thankfully like any good parent and makes the best of my little offerings.
The Composer takes my attempts at beauty and enfolds them as jests, crush notes, or homely tunes inside his greater composition. Beauty has saved the world, so I can try for beauty, often failing, as a jollity in light of that beauty.