The Senses of Christmas

Looking at this picture above, I see the lights and the nativity figures, I feel the cold, I smell the fresh cut boughs, I hear the Christmas carols, and I taste the hot chocolate I’m drinking to keep warm. I was thinking about how to prepare for Christmas this Advent. It occurred to me to look at the holiday through our senses. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, take a deep breath, and may God’s presence be with you as you read this brand-new Christmas devotion. 

The fragrance of fresh pine instantly takes me back to a specific cherished moment of my childhood Christmas. It’s as if I’m carried back to that day when we braved the cold and drove to a tree farm searching for the perfect one. The warmth of a crackling bonfire near the entrance to the parking lot soothed our numb fingers after the triumphant haul of the tree back to our car.
The song, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” greeted us at home with the aromas of Mom’s hot chocolate and her famous iced sugar cookies. After we warmed up and reenergized ourselves, Dad and the boys dragged the tree in and prepared it for decorating. We girls helped Mom unwrap the ornaments and listened to her recount familiar stories. She and Dad hung the more precious ones while my siblings and I fought over which ones to hang up and where they should go.
This is the season where every sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch can transport us back to the nostalgia of our past relationships and celebrations. Each different sense has the power to conjure up joyful and heartfelt memories, while some bring back ones of grief and pain.
As for that first Christmas, I cannot imagine the fear and uncertainty that Mary and Joseph must have felt. Let’s read a fictional account of Mary’s quiet confidence and experience.

“When I heard about the census, I wondered how Caesar Augustus would respond if one were to tell him that he was a part of Yeshua’s plan for the Messiah. We would never have traveled to Bethlehem if the census was not demanded. For you see, Micah’s prophecy is that this ruler, this Messiah, will come out of Bethlehem. Oh, Jehovah! You do have a sense of humor.
As we entered Bethlehem, we could barely get through the crowded streets. Everyone was looking for places to stay, some even sleeping in the alleys. Joseph wanted to find us a room but was turned down by everyone. He finally found a cave used to house animals. It was not what I had pictured, but nothing about this pregnancy had been my plan.
At first, the unwelcome smell of the animals caused me to protest, but the warmth of their bodies took the chill out of the air. Joseph gathered straw to make me a place to lie, covering it and me with our blankets that covered the donkey. The animals’ rhythmic breathing and the cooing of the doves soothed my soul as my body prepared itself for the delivery. Joseph nourished me with barley cakes and water from the local well.
The birth was complicated, but Joseph was very attentive. Neither of us knew what to do, but I felt the presence of God. That initial sound of the baby’s cry made my heart leap as I cuddled and nursed His first feeding. We wrapped him in cloths we were given by the innkeeper and laid him in the feeding trough padded with straw to sleep.
Later, we were overwhelmed with the confirmation of angel choirs and visits from the shepherds who came to worship and celebrate the birth of this holy infant. They said they knew where to go by following the directions of the angels.
Praise God, I am your handmaiden, and my journey of raising this boy has just begun; oh, the great responsibility we have to raise this child, this son of God. Through Jehovah, He will change the world.”

I wonder what memories these sights, smells, and sounds invoked for Mary throughout the years. Were the smells of a stable, the sight of a donkey, or even encountering a shepherd, ones that reminded her of the faithfulness of God? Perhaps these were some of the things she pondered in her heart.

Dear Lord, With the advent and Christmas season here, I desire to slow down. I want to appreciate the senses of this season and pause to savor their gifts. Whether it is a memory of joy or grief, let me see your presence and purpose in each reflection. Amen

I am grateful for your support and encouragement. Please let me know if there is anything I can pray for you. For a Free Prayer Booklet-  

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