About two years ago, I was dwelling on the nativity when it occurred to me how good newborns smell.
Ask on a parenting board what the best part of holding a newborn is, and half the moms will tell you, “The smell!” Of course, modern hospitals do their best to eliminate that by whisking away the baby for an unnecessary bath (they’re establishing that the baby is their territory) and thus the newborn smell is fleeting.
But during a homebirth, you get to “keep” that smell for a little longer. It’s sweetness and softness, and it’s peaceful. I can’t describe it better than that.
As an infant, Jesus would have had that smell, so I tried to envision Mary doing the new-mom thing and putting her face next to his, kissing his forehead, resting her cheek against his cheek, and inhaling that newborn scent as deeply as she could.
My next thought was, Jesus was born in a stable. And one of the features of stables is things which, in the interests of tact, do not smell so good.
So here we have the juxtaposition of this heavenly newborn smell against the pungent scent of animal output, and abruptly I realized that’s kind of like how the world works. Because, being blunt, sometimes life stinks. But if life stinks, then God still smells all the more wonderful — among all the garbage, the only sweet-smelling aroma.
You don’t get smells often in Christmas carols, but if you attend a Christmas service that uses incense, try to remember that the first incense to meet Jesus’s senses was an earthy animal smell.
And at the same time, a young mom found herself astonished and quiet as she rested her lips against her baby’s softness and inhaled the scent of Heaven.