Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. However, our modern Christmas celebrations in the U.S. have become several months’ worth of frenzied activities bordering on sensory overload. Think about it – when did you see your first Christmas ad on television this year? Or the first decorations for sale in stores?
Thousands of lights burn bright on houses and trees. Holiday music from Taylor Swift blasts out of retail speakers in stores. Commercials on TV alert us time is running out to buy the perfect gift, while the thought of long lines of people in the stores push us to further procrastinate.
I still love this time of year, but sometimes it can be a lot. That’s when I rely on one of our other senses to transport me back to Christmas as a child when everything seemed simpler.
When I smell the scent of pine trees, I’m suddenly back with my father searching for the perfect Christmas tree. Apples and cinnamon remind me how decorating for our first Christmas in a new city made that house feel like a home. And every time I catch the scent of tamales, I’m once again in the kitchen watching my mother spreading masa and folding corn husks.
Take a moment and think about what smells remind you of Christmas.
Our sense of smell is more closely linked to emotion and memory than any of our other senses, yet smell is often considered our least utilized sense.
In the New Testament, Matthew tells us that the wise men brought three gifts to the manger where Jesus was born: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These three items were deliberately selected to honor a king.
I don’t think I need to explain the value of gold – though back then, it’s likely that Mary and Joseph never touched gold until that moment. The other two gifts are less common today.
Myrrh was a precious ointment used for the burial of the richest, most powerful people. Frankincense was a perfume only for the wealthiest.
The fact that two out of the three gifts were specific to scent shows the value placed on the sense of smell at the time. And when I think about Christmas throughout the years, from when I was a little boy to having a wife and sons of our own, I realize how priceless our memories are, as well as the scents that trigger them.
Stories are like memories. They are written down so that anyone can experience a moment in time years later.
Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus. We may not have been in Bethlehem, but we get to relive that moment every time we attend a Christmas service, read about his birth in the Bible, or sing my favorite carol, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were never mentioned again in the Bible after the wise men’s visit. I believe it’s because they paled in comparison to the gift of Jesus himself.
Jesus is God’s gift to us, and he truly is the gift that keeps on giving as long as we remember his love and sacrifice.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.