If there was ever a Christmas Tree ornament that described this entire year, it would have to be the one where Dr. Seuss’s much beloved character, the Grinch, is holding in his hand a face mask and the words next to it are stink, stank, stunk. Who would have ever thought that we could relate so well to that cantankerous, mean-spirited, downright nasty old Grinch? Well, at least we relate to his feeling of stink, stank, stunk when it comes to the year 2020.
Yet, we are not the only ones who have ever had to deal with stink, stank, stunk. Just look at the Christmas story. The Roman government calling for a census to be taken now! This couldn’t have been any more inconvenient for Mary and Joseph. And this only can mean one thing, taxes are about to be increased on an already tight budget. This just stinks!
And what about traveling all the way to Bethlehem. Yes, I know it may have only been about 80 miles, but who today can say they traveled 80 miles on the back of a donkey and nine months pregnant. Then to arrive after everything is closed and find there is no room in any house for you and your wife who is in labor with her first born. This just stank!
Finally, Mary and Joseph get some shelter but of all places in a stable, where there are dirty animals, dung on the ground, probably mixed with some warm humid air. And then in walks some shepherds. Nice of them to come and adore the newborn king, but they have been out in the fields, and I am sure they smell like sheep and body odor. This just stunk!
However, laying in the manger is the best smell of all. A newborn baby. Remember holding your child or grandchild for the first time and bringing them close to kiss their face, hold that tiny hand, and smell that incredible smell of new life, innocence and hope. Amid a night that stink, stank, stunk for Mary and Joseph, it became filled with an aroma of peace, joy, hope and love. I can only imagine that it overpowered every other smell that might have filled the air that night as Jesus took those first breaths and let out that first cry, proclaiming to all that Emmanuel, God was with us in flesh.
Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians talks about how God in Christ spreads through us the fragrance that comes from knowing the Christ; that we are the aroma of Christ to the world around us that may stink, stank, stunk. Think about how every card we send to someone, every gift we buy for a stranger, every bill we pay for someone out of work, every bag of groceries we hand out to someone who has no idea where the next meal will come from, every prayer we lift for so many frontline workers, every ounce of faith we hold onto and demonstrate to others, every donation we make to keep ministry in the name of Christ alive, is the smell of that infant born in a manger that has come to save us all.
So yes, hang that popular ornament on your tree and find some humor in the words, stink, stank, stunk, but don’t forget the fragrance of a newborn that has come to redeem, to give us grace, to show us the way of salvation from the stench of the world. And let us remember that we are to share such a fragrance from our own lives that has been touched by this Christ child.