Friday, December 9, 2016


We all have six senses, sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch and Spirit.  What? you might say. My strongest sense has been smell for years, but the power of the Holy Spirit has been replacing it, yet it is of another dimension. Smells can be good and bad, yet God has said something about it too. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). This verse is full of sensual expression just like the Season of Light, Christmas.

As I write this epistle on smell, the strong sense of Christmas is in the air. I just finished baking the 300-year old Daughter of Charity fruitcake recipe of which I have an original copy, the recipe that is. It calls for dried fruit and nuts and no candied stuff, the original. Each five-pound cake calls for a bottle of Courvoisier, the fine and expensive Cognac from France. The orange juice, brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and molasses blended in rich butter wafts through the house, bringing sweetness. This has become a Christmas metaphor for me. I know that some families re-gift the 100-year old fruitcake as a prank.  My simile of the Season of Light brings power in taste, touch, sight and smell. It is reminiscent of the faithfulness of the “flying nuns” for whom I once worked at St. Mary’s Hospital, and even more so the God who came to live, and die for us.

This is the meaning of Christmas. Can you smell the tree and wreaths filling the air with pine? It is easy for me, for it is my strongest sense. You can see it but you can smell the blessed remembrances of Christmas. It is not the shopping for gifts; it is the memory of “The Gift” given. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Savor this gift of love and life. Savor and spread the gift of the knowledge of Him who gave His life that we might live forgiven and adopted as children of God or not.  If you are not buying this gift, you are perishing and your odor or aroma is not good, but rotten. You are like the air as I drive by the Waste Management landfill with a northerly wind on the way to the hospital where I work. It stinks like the garbage of the people.

For me, and hopefully for you, your fragrance is like that of the perfume in the alabaster jar broken over Jesus as an anointing in preparation for His death by crucifixion (John 12:2). This was a sweet offering causing complaint from many as a costly waste. For others it was the recognition of the death of the most costly gift of the Son of God for us sinners. Do you know and understand the fragrance? Do you know that sacrifice from Mary who poured it on the One who gave it all for her and us? This is the reason for the season of Christmas. The world would make it some sort of extravagant holiday from work, but yet it is a celebration of the only One who gave you work and life and love through the sweet fragrance of an offering. Leviticus says ours’ should be a “pleasing aroma to the Lord”  (Leviticus 23:18). The Old Testament is full of burnt offerings to God. But God does not want these offerings. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 55:17).

We are to be imitators of God in Christ who “gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). We are to be a channel for the spreading of the Good News, the aroma of God. Is your sent one that attracts or offends? Do your words and ways bring peace and joy or conflict this Christmas season?  Which sent and which walk is yours? I am reminded of Robert Frost’s iconic poem The Road Less Traveled:

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

There are just two ways, no middle of the road, only dead skunks there. “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

It’s a life and death choice and a pleasant or odious aroma. M. Scott Peck, M.D. wrote The Road Less Traveled, saying, “Life is complex.
Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another...The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness. ”

Yes, life is like the Alaska Highway, littered with rocks and potholes, winding through tall forests and snowcapped mountains along torrents of spring runoff. There are wildflowers clinging to the rocky crags, and fish in the rivers. Eagles fly above and moose and bear feed on everything. But God Himself has written us a manual and guidebook for the journey, the Holy Bible. Therein lies the word that will not return empty, but will accomplish its purpose as the Prophet Isaiah said 700 years before Christ. The word should be a sweet fragrance to you and to those who hear you say it this Christmas. It is healing and encouraging, convincing and convicting. It carries the most important fragrance in the world; life and death, so today choose the sweet aroma of life.


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