What smells will waft through your home at Christmas time. Will it be the mouth-watering smell of home cooking? Will it be the pine smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree or perhaps you will resort to scented candles or oil burners to bring you the smells of traditional Christmas spices?
Smells can be very powerful at evoking memory and there may be particular smells that evoke the memories of Christmas celebrations past. But to really get in the Christmas mood we need a very different set of smells.
The sweet hot breath of a cow, the not unattractive smell of sweaty donkey, the fuggy smell of damp sheep and the slightly fermented smell of warm straw. These were the smells of that first Christmas morn, these were the smells that first filled the lungs of the infant Christ. And these were the smells that would best express the coming of God’s kingdom.
God comes to us as life really is, no more pretence, no carefully placed scents to cover up the reality of life. God comes to us in the midst of life as it honestly is, with all its mess and funny smells, with all its chaos and upset.
And there was no better setting than a stable and all its associated smells, because in a stable there can be no pretending, no putting on of airs and graces – in a stable you just have to be yourself.
And at the centre of this smell stable is the babe in the manger who is none other than God’s message of love to each one of us. God is the one from whom no secrets are hidden, who knows us exactly as we are, who sees through all our pretence and our excuses – and knowing us for exactly what we are, accepts us and loves us.
So this Christmas no more fake scents. May your lungs be full of all the smells of the stable. Know that the baby lying in the manger is looking up and seeing you for who you are, who you really are, and longs for nothing more than to be loved back by you.
The Christ-child looks around the stable – could there be a greater contrast to the glories of heaven – and breathes in the stable smells – so very different from the fragrances of the heavenly realm – and smiles. Why? Because, truly, you are worth it.