I was at the dermatologist over the weekend. There was a pharmaceutical rep in the lobby selling some kind of anti-aging product. She asked me a few questions about my beauty regime. I asked about her product.

She began pointing out the wrinkles around my eyes, the ones on my forehead (which, by the way, she also described as “big”), and the vast amount of fine lines I have on one side of my face due, apparently, to my “asymmetrical nature.”

This was one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in real life (her product must work!), and here she was examining me while nodding with what I can only assume was sympathy, “It’s okay, lots of people have big foreheads and asymmetrical faces. Have you ever considered preventative treatments or fillers?”

Well NOW I have.

I’m not gonna lie and act like I’m above the fray.

I’m well below it. I’ve considered my face in obsessive  meticulous detail since that day, and I can’t pretend like I don’t want to race back to that office and purchase every product in her line, maybe even becoming a sales rep myself. (In this way, shame can be a very powerful sales pitch.)

But it does have me wondering this Advent season–what is true beauty?

On Sunday, our pastor asked us about the shepherds in our lives. Who is leading us? Who is guiding us through the valleys?

Is it the lady at the dermatologist office? Is it a pursuit of beauty or some other kind? Is it shame? Is it someone whose acceptance you are desperate to win?

Or is it the creator and embodiment of ultimate beauty? Is it the one who leads us by still waters? Is it the one whose loveliness has no match; whose spirit radiates from within us, so that we become bearers of his likeness, no matter our age or the bend of our faces?

I know it’s an odd thing to consider this Advent, but could it be that as we wait, we are also in part waiting for Jesus to redefine our understanding of beauty by his standards?

I can’t promise I’ll never give in to the pressure, but for now, I know this:

Jesus, who had “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him,” in an act of unrivaled beauty took up our pain, bore our suffering, was pierced for our transgressions, and was crushed for our sins.

By his wounds, we are healed. Praise Emmanuel, God with us.

Because of his with-ness even wounds caused by the lady at the dermatologist office, even the wounds of identity and shame; yes, even those wounds are made beautiful time and time again.

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