As a school counselor, I once was walking a sixth-grade student to a session at an overnight outdoor education event. At one point she told me I smelled good. This secretly triggered some guilt since I was wearing perfume which the students were not allowed to bring. She quickly went on to say that I “smelled like a counselor should smell.” Now I’m not sure what a counselor should smell like, but some scientists say that smell activates more areas of the brain than any of our other senses.
As we enter Advent and prepare for celebrating Jesus’ birth, do the scents of the Christmas season help put you in the Christmas mood? I imagine the scent of pine, Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, peppermint, and an inviting fire in the fireplace. To think about that very first Christmas, though, the scents would have been quite different - perhaps dusty & sweaty shepherds, manger smells such as animal droppings and feed, then new baby smells and eventually frankincense and myrrh. What an incredible and unique way God chose to have the Savior of the world enter this world!
Imagining the vivid sights, sounds, and smells of the real Christmas Story is something I try to do during Advent. (I haven’t yet found an aerosol spray labeled, “The First Christmas,” though frankincense and myrrh are usually available.) The pace of life during the time and culture of our Savior’s birth was much slower than our busy, fast-paced, technologically-advanced world. Perhaps we could slow down a bit, breathe in the smells of Christmas, spend time enjoying the sights of Christmas, and make time to participate in the sounds of Christmas even as they are today. God created us with – gifted us with – our senses to help us. They can warn us of danger and help us discover things or relive memories, but also assist us in preparing to celebrate the Greatest Gift of All.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7, ESV
by Rev. Melody d. Walden
Gracious Lord, remind us to slow down as we approach Advent. Help us be intentional as we decide how to celebrate Jesus in the season of His birth. Amen.