While driving in our residential neighborhood during early November, I noticed a lawn display of the characters from the movie Beauty and the Beast. Initially, I assumed it had been set up for Halloween, but the display is still there as we approach Christmas. Since I see that display regularly, I think about it often, and I have finally realized that the display of Belle and the Beast is not a scary Halloween scene but, rather, a significant Christian allegory.
In this particular allegory, unfortunately, the Prince who was turned into a beast represents me. My five sisters would all readily agree with this comparison because as the only boy in our family, they claim our parents treated me like a prince, but the girls knew better. I did not deserve to be treated like a prince.
Would I behave like the Prince in the story? Would I say “No” to a poor, elderly woman who begged for help at the castle door and offered only a rose in return? I like to think not, but I’m sure I’ve done much worse during my lifetime.
At times too, I have felt like the beast: ugly, alone, and unloved. Haven’t we all experienced what the Beast experienced? We’re not as attractive as we’d like to be. We don’t have any close friends. And we don’t even love ourselves. In a sense, we are all beasts living in our own run-down castles, trying to save ourselves before the last petal of the rose falls.
The rose, as you may remember, was left behind by the beggar woman who was turned away. The rose possesses both beauty and thorns, yet it will eventually die. And according to her curse, we will continue to live as beasts unless we can learn to love and be loved. Since we can’t really do that on our own, we need a savior, a redeemer, someone who will enter our world, someone willing to offer a sacrifice to restore us to the life God intended for us before we committed our original sin.
Belle, then, represents Jesus Christ. Belle entered the Prince’s kingdom not for her own pleasure but to save the life of another: her father, Maurice. She substituted her life for his, thus showing her willingness to care for another more than herself.
Over time, of course, she comes to know the Beast, and, gradually, she begins to see not the loud, obnoxious monster he has become, but, rather, the kind, sensitive, and strong Prince who was destined to be a king.
Similarly, the Beast learns to love this beautiful intruder. They dine together. They walk together. They dance together. Yet, when Belle needs to leave him, again to save her father, the Beast releases her. Yes, the Beast wants her to stay, but by then, he has finally learned to love, so he can sacrifice his happiness to give her what she needs. At that point, Belle’s departure is like death to the Beast; he fears she will never return, and he will be condemned to his beastly state forever. Fortunately, hope lives.
For just as Jesus Christ rose from the dead to save mankind, Belle returns to the castle. Then, after the final, climactic battle with the adversary, the evil Gaston, she holds the dying Beast in her arms. Is it too late? Yes. The last petal of the rose has fallen, and the Beast dies.
Yet, seconds later, when Belle expresses her love for the Beast, he is resurrected, just as we, too, will be resurrected to eternal life if we can learn to love the Beauty who has come to save us.
That Beauty, that Savior, was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, yet He lives on in our Christmas story. All we have to do is acknowledge His presence in our life, so that we can learn to think more of others than ourselves in this life and, eventually, be reunited with our Savior, our Beauty, in heaven.
May the love of Jesus Christ be with all of you and your families as we celebrate the story of His birth this Christmas.