Precious friends, as we usher in the season of Advent this Sunday, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the world feels a bit like it’s wrapped in a shrouded blanket of darkness. The days continue to grow shorter, and with global uncertainties such as unrest in the Middle East, economic instability, and rising inflation, we’re all craving a bit of festive cheer – right? A glimmer of light in the midst of all this darkness.

And from such a vantage point, the theme of this first week of Advent is particularly poignant: hope.

So, I was doing some pondering (I know, I’m in my head a lot!) thinking about what nurtures hope within me — and the answer was so clear: beauty.

I stumbled upon this gem from John Eldredge:
“Beauty reassures us that goodness is still real in the world, more real than harm, or scarcity, or evil. Beauty reassures us of abundance, especially that God is absolutely abundant in goodness and in life … Beauty is such a gentle grace. Like God, it rarely shouts, rarely intrudes. Rather it woos, soothes, invites; it romances and caresses. We often sigh in the presence of beauty as it begins to minister to us – a good, deep soul-sigh.”

Isn’t that just beautiful? No pun intended! Beauty has this magical power – it heals, it wakes us up, it puts pieces back together. Think about a moment in nature that just hit you and you found yourself covered with God bumps: a radiant sunrise, the scent of pines, a lusciously fragrant rose, a view of the beach, a stunning painting or piece of music that stirs your heart to swoon. In the presence of such beauty, even in the recollection of it, we feel more alive, more hopeful, more restored, and ready to take on whatever life throws our way, and even new possibilities.

Matthew Fox said it well:
“Beauty saves. Beauty unites. Beauty returns us to our origins, and herein lies the ultimate act of saving, of healing, of overcoming dualism.”

Science actually corroborates these sentiments. Recent studies reveal that there are common attributes that humans universally find beautiful that include simplicity, pattern rhythm, symmetry, and certain color and sound combinations found in nature. They are ingrained in us. It seems that we are hardwired to appreciate these, as this penchant for beauty helped our ancestors to survive; for instance, our brains recognize plants that grow in fractal patterns as healthy and safe to eat.

But even more interesting, researchers have found that beauty arouses a region of the brain called the medial orbitofrontal cortex, which stimulates our feelings of pleasure and joy. In a culture obsessed with prioritizing productivity, efficiency, and usefulness, beauty is a healing balm – truly an unsung hero to our well-being. Research from the University of California, Berkley, found that people who experience nature’s beauty with a sense of awe have significantly lower levels of inflammation, reducing the risk of depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

I believe that beauty returns us to our hearts. Beauty softens us and brings us back to an inner receptivity – a sacredness – a sense of timelessness.

John O’Donohue shared that “Beauty returns us, often in fleeting but sustaining moments, to our highest selves.”

So, this holiday season, let’s be beauty nurturers. Let’s be vessels of light, vessels of hope in a world that is seriously thirsty for some transformative healing.

Blessings and so much love to you in this holiday season!


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