(This post was originally posted on [ relay ] Worldview Academy's Online Journal.)
“HOME” SMELLS LIKE DIESEL FUEL. It’s the smell of my father walking by my room in the dark hours of the morning, after being gone for days to run trains for the Santa Fe Railroad Company.
The smell lingered on him all the time, and I loved it. I would catch hints of it when he hugged me in the morning; whiffs of it as I ran past his office in the back hall. But the laundry room was my favorite. There, in the basement of our split level house, the smells of detergent, bleach, and diesel blended together into an unique aroma that meant Mom and Dad were here. Unseen but present. Each doing their properly ordained work as only Mom and Dad can.
To this day the smell of diesel floods me with nostalgia. It’s likes hearing that Christmas carol in the grocery store, or the smell of cinnamon. It means safety and love. It means home.
And to tell the truth, I miss it. A lot. Diesel smells like safety and love to me, but it also smells like loss and pain. It’s not my father’s fault. He still loves me just as he always has (thanks Dad!), but I grew up and I left home. The smell of diesel now reminds me that I’ve lost safety and shelter. It reminds me that I’m on my own out here.
It’s no wonder this time before Christmas is so bittersweet. Traditionally, Christians have observed the advent season as a time of fasting and repentance. This is not a time for parties, but for observance and preparation. Like the ten virgins in Matthew 25, we wait in the growing darkness … why is he taking so long?
Perhaps it’s to give us time for reflection—for preparation. Who am I anyway, to be allowed to be part of his wedding party? Does he know what I’ve done? Boy, it sure is getting really cold out here … (yawn) … and dark … (yawn, blink, blink) … where is he? … … Did I bring enough oil? … … … oh, no.
“Afterward, [they who did not bring enough oil] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour,” Matthew 25:11-13 (ESV).
Yes, that’s certainly part of it. He tarries on our account. To give us time to reflect. To come to our senses and get more oil for our lamps. He delays out of mercy.
But his absence is so bitter. I’m all alone out here in the cold. And I’m afraid! … Why is he taking so long!?
Could it be—is it possible!?—that he delays because he loves a good party so much that he wants to make a good entrance? Like piles of Christmas presents under the tree, that we can’t open just yet. Not until we have dinner … and do the dishes … and read the Christmas story … … and—OH PLEASE MOM, HURRY! … No! Not yet… Not until dad finally sits down in that old, comfy chair and says,
“Okay, buddy… now!”
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved,” Romans 8:18-24 (ESV).