I'm sitting by a toasty fire listening to Mary Grace play her violin as I type. It's the first full day of Christmas break for all the kiddos. We've baked cookies today and soup is planned for supper on this windy, snowy day. We don't have any candles burning, but our house still smells good and Christmassy.
You know what I mean when I say it smells Christmassy. So does a pastor I respect, Tim Keller. In a recent Christmas sermon I listened to by him, he very accurately pointed out that "the smells of the stable were not cinnamon and spice. They were urine and manure."
I haven't seen any Yankee Candles by those names in the stores this holiday season.
Reality checks are good for us, aren't they?
Lou and I are not farm people. We don't frequent barns very often. Which means, neither do our kids. So one Christmas, when Luke and Hannah were the only little Harrises around, Lou and I took them out to our former pastor's barn. Ray Leininger had shared that every Christmas, he and his wife trotted their grandkids out to the barn where he kept some bottle fed calves. There, they'd sit on hay bales just outside a pen where the calves were kept, and read the Christmas story to them. I thought that sounded cool, like it would help make the Christmas story come alive a bit for our two little ones, and got his permission to trot our kids out to his barn to do the same thing.
I can't imagine giving birth in a barn amid the hay and the dirt and the animals and their "stuff" and those smells.
But God imagined it. He planned it. He came low - amid the hay and the dirt and the animals and their "stuff" and those smells. He came low - amid...us.
I'm glad real manger smells are not what wafts through our houses at this time of year (or any time of year, for that matter). But I hope, after hearing Keller's statement, I'll think twice when I light a candle or walk into a house that smells Christmassy. I know my first thought will be, as it should be, "How lovely!" But the thought I want to have follow on the heels of that first one - the one I want to train myself to think when I smell those lovely smells is just a bit opposite. I want those lovely smells to trigger the thought, "How lovely, How lowly."