I have been in a few Christmas plays over the years. I have been a shepherd or two, a wise man, Joseph and maybe even the backside of a donkey now and then.
Once, when I was a young boy, someone glued hair all over my face and I got to sport a white beard similar to the one I wear today. I thought it was pretty cool until I got all itchy and when the time came to take it off, it seemed the glue pulled some of my skin off with it.
I had no appreciation for the scrubbing involved to get my face back to what it once was. It took a few days before I felt normal again.
As I sit here this morning, I look back at how we somehow tried to recreate the sights and sounds of that first Christmas. People have gone to great lengths to attempt to bring Bethlehem to the church sanctuary for a brief moment in time.
But, having spent some time on a farm when I was younger, can’t help thinking about the smell. I mean, they were in a stable.
Cows don’t smell so bad when they are scattered across a huge pasture, but put them all in one room and the fragrance isn’t what perfumes are made of. Throw in a goat or sheep or two, or whatever critter you want in your stable and the smell isn’t exactly ‘O Holy Night’.
Even if you remove the animals, their ‘essence’ lingers on.
You may be reading this wondering what is wrong with this guy? Why is he making my Christmas story stink?
Well, I tend to think everything is significant. Jesus could have just as easily been born at the Ritz or a resort along the Nile or even in a palace or perhaps the best hospital around (I know, there weren’t any good hospitals around).
But Jesus was born amid the stench, the excrement, in a place not fit for a man let alone the child of God. He didn’t have cute baby clothes or a fancy crib.
He came for this. He came for me. He came to embrace my dirty, smelly soul. He brought himself to the lowest of the low and nothing could keep him back, not filth, not a stagnant decaying odor, not death, not even a world of sinful, fallen, broken people.
He came for this, not to condemn and judge it, not to punish it but to take the punishment and condemnation upon himself.
He came for me, stink and all.
2 Corinthians 2:15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
He came for this, to create perfume from the smell of death and doom.
So, maybe I should try to recreate the stable smell around my nativity scene that sits in my living room this year. I’m sure that I probably shouldn’t, and for my wife’s sake, I won’t even consider doing that. But I surely must reflect on the place he brought himself to and the reasons he did it.
And I should also be grateful for the new fragrance that arises from my life and the freedom I have been given from the dreadful smell of death and doom.