Friday, December 19, 2008

Our good friend Erin took our family pics at Judy's house...

Smells Like Home

Last Saturday I was walking beside Christy at Dollywood as I was stopped in my tracks by an amazing smell that came straight out of my childhood… no, it wasn’t the funnel cakes, (although that’s about the most delicious smell ever) it was something totally different… burning coal. I know, you probably don’t think burning coal is an amazing smell, but for me, it is. You see, my dad is a blacksmith. He literally owns two forges, a few anvils and tons of hammers, tongs, pliers, leather aprons and all kinds of really manly stuff like that. As a kid I would watch him take scraps of black and useless steel and pound them into works of art with fire and force. It was pretty awesome. I love watching the rock-hard metal turn bright orange in the belly of the white-hot coals. I love watching the sparks fly as the hammer beats shape to rhythm. I love hearing the hiss of the hot steel being plunged into a bucket of water to cool, and I love the smell of the coal.

When I smelled the coal of the blacksmith shop at Dollywood I was instantaneously transported back to the house where I grew up. For a moment I was a kid again. I didn’t have any bills or responsibilities and my only worries were getting to the park in time for the pick-up football game and finding all my darkest clothes before sunset for a nighttime game of capture the flag. It only lasted a moment, but that smell made me feel at home.

The other day I was reading the story of the baby Jesus being brought to the temple. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have felt like for the Creator of the Universe to be trapped in the uncontrollable body and consciousness of an eight-day-old baby. How far had He come? How trapped and inhibited did He feel? He was helplessly wrapped in whatever scraps of cloth were lying around and carried six miles down the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem by a couple of teenagers who were scared out of their minds. How awkward, uncomfortable and out of sorts must He have felt coming into the temple? And then He smelled it… worship.

Over and over again the Old Testament talks about how the sacrifices that took place in the tabernacle and then in the temple were fragrant offerings to God. The temple was like a barbeque that never closed… it must have smelled awesome! But I don’t think it was the roast lamb or beef that smelled so good to the Lord. He loved the smell of contrite hearts offering prayer, praise and gratitude with love. Maybe it reminded Him of home… His home, where angels never stop offering worship. And even though we don’t have the temple anymore, our worship is still the smell He loves. Hebrews 13 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name.” When the baby Jesus entered the temple, what if the prayers and singing of His people were the smell that made Him feel at home in this cold, lonesome world? What if the songs of Simeon and Anna took Him back to the songs of angels?

I’m not finished with my Christmas shopping yet and there are less than ten days left until Christmas… I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what to get so and so, trying to remember what I got them last year and wondering if there’s anything I have received that’s re-gift-able… shhh, don’t tell. But I know what to get Jesus. It’s the thing He smelled when shepherds bowed. It’s the gift He opened when an old man held Him and sang… He wants to smell prayer, praise and gratitude. He wants love for Christmas.

And here is a family portrait drawn by Anna... complete with a big 'ole heart!

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