Almost exactly a year ago on this blog I rather sheepishly revealed a guilty pleasure: Hallmark Christmas movies. This year, a year of ugly politics, horrific tragedy, and un- relenting gloom, I am watching even more and learning why these movies attract us. We love them because they give us a view of life as we wish it would be. And this wish is not as superficial as it may seem.
We are “hard-wired” by our Creator God for a life of sweet harmony – with God, with other humans, with the garden we live in, and with ourselves. A new book by James Bryan Smith, The Magnificent Story, Uncovering a Gospel of Beauty, Goodness & Truth, describes three “transcendentals” which help us live as a person created in the image of God should live. These values, (which every human longs for) are: beauty, goodness, and truth. And love is intertwined with them all.
Beauty, according to Thomas Aquinas, “is that which, when seen, pleases.” Smith remarks that whenever we see beauty, we say, “Wow!” A friend of mine recently said, “I make a point of attending concerts and visiting art museums as often as I can because I crave beauty!” Another friend suffers with the return of daylight savings time. The world is dark and she misses the beauty of the sun. We are created to respond to beauty. When it is missing, life becomes cold and stark.
Goodness, says Smith, “is that which when experienced, benefits.” It provokes the response “Thank you!” Goodness is all around us, but some days we have to look for it: A mother responding lovingly to a toddler in a grocery store. Food collected by churches and families to feed the hungry. Money raised online to fund a life-saving surgery. A team of people helping a refugee navigate her new world. A young man on the roadside changing a tire for a senior citizen. In this dark and angry world we live in, goodness benefits the world.
Truth is especially difficult to find in 2017. Smith says that something is true “when it aligns with reality.” Reality is the way things actually are, but in our world reality and truth are always under attack. Smith says, “Truth is that which, when encountered, works.” When we hear the truth, we say “Yes.” Truth is essential to building and keeping relationships, creating public policy, keeping law and order, reporting the news, finding community in a church.
Smith concludes, “We see God best when we learn to see and experience beauty, goodness, and truth. When we see them we get a glimpse of God.” And we also get a glimpse of the promised eternal kingdom of God.
The hallmarks of every Hallmark movie are gorgeous scenery (beauty), people caught in acts of kindness (goodness), conflict that is always resolved (truth), and love that always triumphs. They always provide what everyone is looking for: a happy ending. A Christ-follower’s happy ending comes after a life of living in beauty, goodness, truth, and love. We call that happy ending “heaven.”