“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 (NIV84)
I have a confession to make – I talked with my wife about buying an artificial Christmas tree. You see, our kids are getting older (and maybe too busy to ride with Mom and I to Lambert’s) and it would be easier to know exactly the size and shape of the tree. Then there’s the end of watering and picking up needles (especially the pesky ones that get under the rug). There is a major problem, however, with artificial trees that I cannot get beyond: they don’t smell like real trees. Some of my favorite things about Christmas are the scents of the season.
The smell of fireplace smoke brings me back to my childhood and the finished basement at Grampy’s house where we’d throw the torn-up wrapping paper into the flames. The smell of sugar cookies delivers me back 20 years to the first apartment Jeanine and I shared in Quincy center where we used a broken down oven to fill the house with the sweet aroma of freshly baked sleds and Santas. The smell of cinnamon takes me back 10 years to a non-functioning fireplace on Walnut Street in Dorchester where we decorated the hearth with some strongly spiced pine cones and red bows. The scents of Christmas – peppermint candy canes, hot apple cider, fragrant candles – add something special to the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
What puts you in the Christmas Spirit? Perhaps it’s all the lights, which might remind you that the light of the world has come. Perhaps it’s the gift giving, which could remind you of the greatest gift of God’s grace. Perhaps it’s all the carols and Christmas hymns, which may remind you of the angels songs sung to the shepherds. Or perhaps it’s the gathering of family around a tree, which would remind you of the purpose of Christmas – to restore the relationship between God and his creation. For me, it’s all the scents, which remind me of frankincense and myrrh – gifts for a Lord and Savior – and reminds me of straw and swaddling clothes – the greatest becoming the least amidst the lowest.
Whatever puts you in the Christmas spirit, whatever helps you reflect on the wonder and splendor of the birth of our Lord, I pray that it surrounds you and inspires you to celebrate the coming of the Lord.
By the way, I’m getting a real tree this year (and maybe a new Dustbuster©).