Christmas smells like ****

Evergreen boughs. Gingerbread. Wassail. Fresh-baked cookies. Frosty winter air. Bayberry candles. The festive fragrances reminded our family that this was Christmas Eve as we visited my wife’s mother in Wisconsin.

“Dad, can we go down to the barn and see the kittens?” Faith and Paul asked. We bundled up and trudged through the snow to the barn.

As we opened the door, the smell of urine burned our eyes and nostrils. Steam from the cattle’s body heat carried the scent of fresh manure throughout the barn.

“Let’s see the kittens and then get out of here,” my teen-aged daughter urged. “My hair is going to smell just terrible after being here!”

We did carry the odor of the barn’s manure, old wooden beams, grain, and fresh straw back to the house with us.

“This smells better,” Paul announced as the aroma of roasting turkey greeted us at the door.

But the true scent of the season clung to our clothes. The holy and pure God had chosen to arrive on earth, not between scented candles in a tabernacle of cedar paneling, but in the stench and filth of livestock.* And in his sacrificial acts, he offered us the “fragrance of life” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Copyright © 1988 James N. Watkins

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*The word translated “inn” (kataluma) is actually a term for upper room—the same word used for the location of the Last Supper. First century houses used the first floor for housing animals, while the upstairs was the sleeping area. Thus Jesus was indeed cradled in a manger (feed trough) but not in a “stable.”

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