The story, “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry is a lovely story of a young couple living in a small apartment in New York. The story was published in 1905. It tells of how both of them made sacrifices so that they could buy the perfect gift for their spouse. The wife decided to sell her hair so she could purchase a platinum watch fob for her husband’s pocket watch. He in turn, sold his watch so that he could buy some beautiful combs to adorn his wife’s hair. Obviously their thoughtful gifts became useless, but because of their sacrificial giving, their love endured in spite of it.
Ironic isn’t it. We sometimes think we’re buying just the right thing, but it doesn’t always turn out that way. The fact that both of these people made sacrifices to purchase something special for their significant others is really the point of the story. When we buy those gifts with the complete focus being on the other person, we’re giving part of ourselves to them.
In the Biblical version of the wise men coming to Bethlehem to pay homage to the new king, we may get the wrong idea about those guys. In the song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” we’re told that they were kings. Truth – they were more likely astrologers who viewed the Christmas star and realized something extraordinary was taking place. They were also more likely from Babylon than the Orient, because it was the site of the practice of astrology. We don’t know how many there were. There could’ve been three or thirty three.
The O. Henry version of “The Gifts of the Magi,” is like many stories of sacrifice that pop up at this time of the year. There was “The Juggler of God,” and “The Little Drummer Boy” which in like manner show gifts of the givers being gifts of their selves.
We don’t know all of gifts the Magi brought to Bethlehem, but apparently they were very expensive. We’re told of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold was probably used to allow Mary and Joseph to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt so Jesus wouldn’t be murdered with all the newly born children of that area. Gold is also a gift befitting a King, which Jesus is. The gift of frankincense was a fragrant resin used in worshiping God. We know Jesus is also God with us. The gift of myrrh was at the time used in burial preparation, which would indicate the final sacrifice Jesus would give for all of us. We’re also told that Mary held these things in her heart, and thought about them often, so they were not only memorable and expensive, she knew that her Son was worth all of them.
When we give gifts at this time of year, we may hope that our gift has special meaning for the person receiving it. We may be trying to make an impression. We might even look at our gifts as sacrifices because they come at great cost to us. The greatest gift of Christmas was offered in the form of a little baby – a child born in poverty – a seemingly insignificant gift, but one which would prosper the entire world and give it everlasting peace.
Jesus is our Christmas present. We all need to start remembering that. Our gifts pale in comparison. The greatest gift one can give for another is his life. This little child became Immanuel (God with us) so that we would someday become heirs of His kingdom.