Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing (Advent: Day 16)

Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing, stealing our senses all away!

I love how this Christmas hymn written in 1728 associates Jesus with a “goodly fragrance.” Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (NASB)

The word “aroma” occurs 47 times in the NASB version of the Bible. The majority are found in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers when God was setting up the law and sacrificial system for the children of Israel. The adjectives mostly used to describe the aroma are soothing, fragrant, sweet and pleasing. Sacrifices made to God from a heart of obedience are a fragrant aroma to Him.

The importance of a sacrifice’s aroma is not the smell but what the smell represents – substitutionary atonement for sin. The very first mention of God smelling the aroma of a burnt offering is found in Genesis 8:21. Noah offered a burnt offering of clean animals and birds after leaving the ark. We are told it was a ‘pleasing’ aroma to God. The idea is that Noah’s sacrifice was a propitiation, or satisfaction, of God’s righteous requirement. God was pleased with the sacrifice and then gave the promise to never again destroy every living creature with a flood” (gotquestions.org).

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1 John 2:2

Christ’s sacrifice was a sweet, fragrant aroma to God because it satisfied the payment for our sins and made it possible for us to have a relationship with the Father.

Have you ever noticed when you hug someone that sometimes the scent of their perfume or cologne rubs off on you? My father used to wear a favorite cologne that I noticed every time I hugged him. I loved it so much because it was unique to him, and my mom gave me a small bottle of it after he died. Whenever I smell it now, it immediately brings me back to those special hugs. I feel the same way about my mom’s perfume. She lives 1500 miles away so whenever I hug someone wearing her type of perfume, I want to keep on hugging them because it’s almost like hugging her. This made me think of the truth taught in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

But thank God! He has made us His captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NLT

During Paul’s day, a “Triumphal procession” referred to a common Roman military custom. When battles were won, soldiers would return home to an awesome victory celebration. Their chariots would be paraded through the streets with the captives walking behind them, chained to their chariots. Flowers would be thrown on the ground in front of the horses filling the air with the sweet aroma of victory. This paints a glorious picture of a life surrendered to Christ. He leads us forth in His triumphal procession!

When we are “chained to His chariot” and allowing Him to live His life in and through us, it is the sweet aroma of Christ’s life rising up to God and spreading to everyone around us. Paul says, “who is adequate for these things?” The only One who is adequate is our Lord Jesus Christ who died so that His life might be manifested through us!

What is that light so brilliant, breaking here in the night across our eyes. Never so bright, the day-star waking, started to climb the morning skies!


Just as the fragrance of Christ surrounds us when we surrender to Him, the light of Christ shines to a dark world.

Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

Jesus is the Sunrise from on high. What a beautiful way to describe the Light of the world. Why would He bother to shine on us? Because of the tender mercy of our God! The tenderness of God in this verse speaks to the essence of who He is. His heart is tender towards us (Lam3:22). The fact that He reached out to us and “visited us” has the idea of God favoring man. It was His good pleasure to redeem us. His favor is His grace, and Jesus is the grace of God to us!


Matthew 4:16 (NASB)

2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Bethlehem! There in manger lying, find your Redeemer haste away, run ye with eager footsteps vieing! Worship the Savior born today.


Advent Reflections:

1. Read John 12:3. What did Mary do in an act of love for Jesus?

2. Read Romans 12:1-2. What do you learn about sacrifice?

3. Read Psalm 51:16-17. What do you learn about the importance of our heart condition before God?

4. Read Exodus Exodus 34:29-35. What happened to Moses’ face when he had been with God?

5. Read Revelation 21:23 and 22:5. What do we learn about the light of God in heaven?

Click here to listen to a choral version of this Advent hymn on YouTube.

Click here for Brian Mann’s piano version on YouTube.

5 thoughts on “Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing (Advent: Day 16)

  1. Love this beautiful hymn. Rarely heard. We are up early most days and watch the sunrise. It reminds me that Christ is the light that shines in the darkness and one day we will have no need of the sun light as He will illumine the world and reign forever and ever.

    Liked by 1 person

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