The scents of Balsam and Fir trees, candy canes, and cinnamon are almost universally perceived as the fragrances of Christmas.
But another aroma sends me to Christmases past just as quickly as these: the scent of the Sears automotive department.
More specifically, tires.
For several years when I was a child, my family lived near the big rambling Sears and Roebuck store on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta.
At Christmas, we always made at least one pilgrimage to the brick-faced multi -layered establishment, in which they would transform what I remember to be one entire floor into a seasonal toy department.
The thing is, no matter how big or small the store, Sears and Roebuck always smelled like the tires in automotive. So, as I carefully perused the dolls, games, and stuffed animals, which I hoped would wind up under the tree on Christmas morn, my olfactory nerves decided Christmas smelled like rubber.
Now, at least once during the Christmas season, I have to make a trip to Sears. I usually don’t buy much. I just want to smell the tires.
Strange, I know.
My trip to Sears started me thinking about what the first Christmas smelled like. I had to laugh. I guess to get it; we’d have to go sit in a cattle stall. I can’t imagine anyone making manure scented potpourri.
We’ve really sanitized the birth of Jesus, haven’t we?
Very different from the scene conjured by the idyllic nativity figures I have displayed in my house; I believe in the natural, it was a gritty, smelly event.
But in the spirit, there was a transcendent sweetness about it. A sweetness the Savior has shared with us who have received his salvation.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 2:15, “Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life.”
Don’t you love that? “…an aroma redolent with life.”
What the first Christmas really smelled like was life.
That’s why the Son of God endured the grime and the stench.
I made my trip to Sears early this morning and just stood for a moment transported to my childhood by new tire smell. But one day, all those who know Him are going to be transported to their eternal home because of the fragrant life the incarnate God born in a cattle stall died to give us.