The Scent of the Spirit

It wasn’t feeling much like Christmas yesterday when our family went to play at the beach and had to wear sunscreen and tank tops. I know, I know, I am such a martyr. But as soon as we picked up our tree, the scent of pine filled our van and then our home with familiarity and feelings of Christmas. It’s amazing what a scent can do.

It’s also amazing to me how much comfort can be drawn from a simple sniff of something or someone we love. Take Eli’s beloved bee bee, his wretched and loved little blue blanket he has dragged around our home since as early as I can remember. The smell, to an outside observer, would not be a scent to suggest to the Yankee Candle Company; yet to him, and even to me, it smells like sweetness and sweat and everything that Eli represents.

The thing about a scent is that it is just that, a scent. Not an overpowering, strong, in-your-face kind of thing. Just hints of something that you can’t deny, but that sometimes have to be sought out.

As I was sitting in church today, listening to the beginnings of the Christmas story, the Lord brought to mind and heart how the scent of the Spirit is all over this story. Sure, the Spirit is not a typical mainstay of the creche, sure He doesn’t have a speaking part in the drama of Christmas. But His scent is all over it. Behind the scenes, He makes it all happen.

He fills John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. He overshadows Mary and causes a virgin to be with child. He fills Zacharias, Jesus’ uncle, as he prophesies what will come out of Jesus’ life. He stirs Simeon and Anna to recognize the Divine in a poor little baby from Nazareth.

He is behind so much of the grand production that is the quiet yet profound coming of God’s own son into His creation.

As I have been studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians, one of the Greek words and the image that it brings with it has been etched on my mind. While Paul is imprisoned and outwardly the situation looks grim, Paul has this shocking confidence that all will be well, that all will turn out for the progress of the gospel, both within his own soul and in the world around him.

What gave him this confidence in the midst of the grim situation, one which he probably wouldn’t have included in his 10-year plan or added to his bucket list?

He tells us in Philippians 1:19. “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”

The Greek word for provision used here, epichoregia, means supply, provision, support. It would have brought to the mind of the original readers the image of a chorus putting on a grand production because of the lavish supply and support of some donor. The epi is an intensifier, which changes the word to mean to lavishly supply or outfit everything that is necessary to accomplish a grand, a huge, even an impossible, objective.

This is the Holy Spirit’s mode of operation. He loves to work behind the scenes, usually in the most common of places and people, lavishly supplying, outfitting, enabling beautiful, God-wrought grand productions. This was His role in the most grand production, the insertion of God into a desperate world in the form of a poor little baby.

This lavish supply of the Holy Spirit was Paul’s hope as he sat in prison. This same lavish supply waits to be our hope in any and every situation we find ourselves in. We may not see Him out-front, stealing the show, but He is there, working behind the scenes of our mundane lives. If we are careful and attentive, I believe we, too, will find the comforting and compelling scent of the Spirit of Christ. And it’s amazing what a simple scent can do.

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