Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
Coming to our senses this Advent (in other words, touching the season) has involved sight, sound, taste, and now—last but not least—smell. Yes, smell. At first blush, a somewhat odd thing to think about, that is, until you think about it. Then it makes perfect, well, sense.
One of our holiday traditions is a trip to a certain store that sells things for the “bath and body.” Early each December, we purchase a couple of those little squatty glass-enclosed candles filled with the fragrances of the season. There are two scents, “Winter” and “Fresh Balsam,” that simply smell like Christmas. My family makes fun of me because I get so excited about those candles. I love the way they make our home smell. I’d keep them burning continually, but my zeal so far has always been outvoted, as the candles need to last all month (sigh).
Yes, we could celebrate Advent and Christmas without those candles, in the event that candles were suddenly and sadly outlawed. But what those smells add to our home is a fragrance that indicates these weeks are different, that this time is special. Those smells help us perk up and pay attention to what’s going on, an attentiveness that some would say is the stuff of which prayer is made.
Candle scents are not the only smells in our home during this time. There’s a potpourri mix filled with cinnamon sticks and orange peels that my wife keeps simmering on the stovetop. There’s usually an attempt at a gingerbread house on the countertop that smells like sugar. There are candy canes on the tree that you catch a whiff of each time you walk by. And at some point during the month, the intoxicating smell of Worcestershire sauce fills the house, which indicates Chex Mix is in the oven—Hallelujah!
Maybe the sense of smell is a good choice to focus on this last week of Advent, for if we’re paying attention, the smells of the season all carry that power of fragrance. They can direct our hearts and minds, via our noses, to the One whose birth we celebrate and return we anticipate. Those smells can also humble us, as we are reminded that we too are to have a fragrance about our lives, an aroma that causes those around us to perk up and wonder why we repeat the sounding joy.
Prayer: Christ our King, thank You for giving Yourself up for us. Give us courage to live our lives with such fragrance. Amen.