What are the scents that you think of when it comes to this holiday? I usually think of peppermint, potpourri, turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, evergreen trees, etc.
It has been “proven” (by someone somewhere) that smell and memory are closely linked. When we smell certain scents, our mind will often to go a certain time and place or story. I was thinking about this fact for some reason and was wondering about the smell of the first Christmas.
I’m thinking that the scent of the first Christmas must be quite different from ours today. We know from the accounts in Luke and Matthew that there was “no room at the inn” so Mary and Joseph were given a stable for shelter and a manger for a crib. Some definitions are in order here:
Stable: “a building set apart and adapted for keeping horses.”
Manger: “a long open box or trough for horses or cattle to eat from.”
Okay, so if we’ve got a stable that is mainly a place where horses live and a manger as a place where horses normal eat from, I’m thinking this isn’t the greatest smell ever.
I have therefore decided that the smell of the first Christmas must have been “manure.”
If you have ever spent much time out in Lancaster County, PA perhaps you have the smell in your minds right now. My dad grew up there and when we drive through, he can pick out the smell and name the animal from which it came. Its really kind of scary actually. I’m sure he could go on some “stupid human tricks” or something.
Anyways, I am guessing that when they arrived at the Inn that night, and the innkeeper didn’t say, “Well I’ve got a stable for you if you want it. But first let me and have the maid get the manure cleaned up and hose it down so it’s nice and fresh for you. You’ll find some fresh mints on the hay for you in the morning.”
On top of the stinky stable, the shepherds arrived from the fields where they were working. I am thinking that they didn’t go home and take showers before they headed off to the stable.
So, what? What does that matter?
Well first of all, going back to my last post, while I think there are some very sentimental sides of the Christmas story I think our culture pretty much celebrates a neutered version of the incarnation. We like the Jesus who comes in a manger, but we don’t care so much for the Jesus who came to turn the world upside down, piss of the religions establishment and purposefully get himself killed. A little looking at the reality of how the Christmas really was is always helpful in seeing what it really was.
Second, I think the way that Jesus came into our world shows a bit of how he came to serve and who he came to serve. He came into our world in a dirty, non-glamorous humble way. This is a good precursor to those he would come to love (the poor, outcast, the lepors, etc) and how he would love (selflessly, washing feet, dying on a humiliating cross, etc).
So, its official. The smell of Christmas is now manure. Enjoy a manure filled Christmas.