In creation God designed mankind to have five senses. He generously gave us abilities to see, hear, touch, taste and smell.
Each of these gifts has an important role in our survival, but they also contribute to the pleasures of life.
The Christmas season has a way of highlighting the sensory capacities of human beings and the joys they give us. Looking at the decorations and lights of the season, we overdose on the ability to see. Christmas trees, candles, poinsettias, red sweaters and glitter – the sights are more than we can take in.
What would this holiday season be without the sounds of bells, music and laughter?
Opening our presents, we find pleasure in touching and feeling the uniqueness of each gift.
What would Christmas be like without the wide array of tasty food, seasonal desserts and sweet candies?
Christmas is also loaded with aromas. The scent of that freshly cut fir or spruce tree is unforgettable, and the fragrance of fresh brownies in the oven is almost heavenly.
I’m glad God’s masterful design of human beings included the five senses. We enjoy all of them more than we admit.
I invite you to walk with me through the scriptures for a moment of emphasis on the sense of smell.
God likes pleasant aromas. In Numbers 28:2, He gave this instruction, “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘Be sure to present to me at its appointed time my offering and my food as my fire offering, a pleasing aroma to me.’”
Throughout the book of Leviticus, you will read many instructions for presenting a proper aroma to God in worship through the sacrificial system.
The Gospel of John records Jesus’ return to Bethany to enjoy dinner with his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus – the one Jesus raised from the dead. This happened only days before Jesus faced His trial, suffering and crucifixion.
While Martha served Lazarus and Jesus, the Bible says, “Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).
Overruling Judas Iscariot’s complaint that Mary’s act was a waste of money, Jesus said, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial” (John 12:7). The aroma that filled the house and Mary’s act of worship were important statements.
Decades later, the Apostle Paul reminded the Christians in the church at Corinth that the fragrance of their lives are part of their testimony to believers and unbelievers in their community: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
My wife and I live next to a cookie factory in Cary.
That’s right, those Austin cookies and crackers you buy in the store or out of a vending machine are baked a few hundred yards from our living room. Owned by Kellogg and Keebler, the facility consistently sends a fragrance across our neighborhood that is a pleasure to inhale. It takes my mind to those fictional Keebler elves that bake sweet, enjoyable treats.
It also reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians. I’m prompted to ask, “Is the fragrance of Christ in my life as noticeable to non-believers as the cookie factory is to my neighbors?”
The cookie factory is hardly visible to those driving the roads around it. The trees and dense foliage hide the intense activity of workers who produce a large volume of tasty treats. But, a quick whiff of the air exposes the workers’ secrets. The fragrance makes a clear announcement to the community. Something good is cooking!
That factory is like many churches. Every day people drive by the entrance and do not notice the facility. They have no idea what happens in that place and really don’t care.
People drive from miles around every day to work at the factory, but others who drive down the same road are clueless, until they catch the aroma of cookies baking.
Again, I wonder if our churches are noticed.
If not, do we at least have a pleasant fragrance that causes the world around us to ask, “What’s cooking?”
As you enjoy celebrating the birth of Jesus this Christmas and the traditional fragrances of the season fill the air, remember who we are as redeemed followers of the Child that was born, Who died for our sins and resurrected from the grave to give us life.
Here’s a closing word from Paul, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).
Have a Merry Christmas!