December 2, 2020

(Not suitable for those who believe in Santa!)

I am particularly scent-sensitive.  That’s a curse, and a blessing. Last March when we had a skunk spray outside our kitchen window in the middle of the night, my spouse slept peacefully. I, on the other hand, felt like the critter was surely under our bed. On the more positive side, I always smell the bread and juice of communion before partaking, and can remember those scents from the church of my youth.

According to livescience.com, the area of our brain that juggles smells, memories, and emotions is uniquely wired into our brains, making it the sense that is most related to memory. I smell bread and grape juice and remember sitting in the pew at Kenmare Presbyterian Church outside of Pittsburgh, PA as a very small child as the communion elements were passed. I feel both a sense of safety and a sense of awe at the same time. It becomes a tiny contemplative moment.

A gift of this season of COVID-19 has been a greater, more expansive sense of time. In place of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season: shopping at over-crowded malls, a full calendar of gatherings, parties and activities, we have an invitation to savor all that our senses take in, including the sense of smell.

I am writing this today, because I spent part of Sunday putting up the Christmas decorations.  I smelled the spicy scent of a candle long before I it pulled it out of the box. I smelled the cinnamon of a homemade ornament, and remembered the friend who gave it to me. For some reason, I could almost catch a whiff of the scent of the old Lionel electric train running around the track under the tree on Christmas morning as my sisters and I waited in our parents’ bedroom while my father went into the living room to see if Santa had come. It took a long time to put two and two together to realize that my dad, not Santa, had plugged in the train.

Amazing, what a remembered smell can evoke. Perhaps that memory of promise and hope can become a prayer for the healing that we long for in this dark season.

“Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising; my raised hands are my evening prayers.” (Psalm 141:2 – The Message) ~ Anne

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