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The Gift of the Magi

The Gift of the Magi

Hello, everyone.

It is Christmas time yet again, and that means that in churches and homes across the land, people will be reading about and singing about the so-called “Christmas Story” in Luke 2.  However, there is a story that, in my opinion, captures the REAL story of Christmas far better than the Luke yarn, and that is the story “The Gift of the Magi,” by William Sydney Porter, better known as O Henry.  I reread the story in preparation for this diary, and here is the link I used:  https://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html

I first learned of the story 60 years ago when I was a freshman in high school.  Being a boy, I approached the story as a boy, but at the same time, there was something about that story that grabbed me and never let me go.

Everyone knows the story, so I don’t have to rehearse it here.  It is the story of a young couple, Jim and Della Young, who had no money but who loved each other almost to the point of death.  A key element in the story is that each had a possession that he or she was tremendously proud of.  Here is O Henry’s description of those prized possessions:

“Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and his grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty’s jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.”

They loved their possessions, but they loved each other even more.  And Christmas being Christmas, with the overemphasis on the financial side of the holiday, they wanted to celebrate, to the point that each did the most supreme act for each other that they could do.

As I said earlier everyone knows the story, so I don’t have to retell it.  So I will move to the last 2 paragraphs of the story:

“”Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

“The magi, as you know, were wise men–wonderfully wise men–who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

I cried as I reread the story.  I am fighting to keep from crying as I type this.  Why?  Because this story is possibly the greatest expression of love that was ever written.

My late wife Carol and I lived in California, and we had a hard life out there.  I was never able to find a real job – jobs were nonexistent when we were there – so we had to live on Carol’s salary as a church secretary.  We were so much like Jim and Della that it was not funny.  The main difference is that instead of a watch and glorious hair, our prized possessions were each other.  Carol and I loved each other to the same degree that Jim and Della did.

Earlier, I said that that I thought that “The Gift of the Magi” was a far greater Christmas story than the story in Luke 2.  How so?  During this season, for some bizarre reason, our focus is on each other and our love for each other.  We want to care about and do for those who are the most precious people on earth to us.  Sometimes even old grudges are swept away and relationships restored.  Like the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, not because of some baby born somewhere – if that event really happened – but because the thought of “peace on earth, good will toward men” actually does hold sway to some degree.

If the truth be known, towns and cities are filled with copies of Jim and Della Young – people who truly love each other to the point of sacrificing for them.  These sacrifices need not be monetary or even of one’s most prized possessions.  The sacrifices can be of time, such as helping someone in a store reach for something or helping a person who has fallen on the ice.  They can be spiritual in understanding and accepting someone who doesn’t believe as you do.  It can be one’s pride, such as realizing that no political position is worth sacrificing a friendship or relationship that has existed for decades.  As O Henry says, of those who give gifts, those who give the gifts that I have mentioned are the wisest people.  They are the Magi.

Seasons Greetings, and may each of you have a blessed holiday season.

Bill

 

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December 24, 2016 Posted by | Life, Miscellaneous, Religion | , , , | Leave a comment