Christmas is certainly the time of year when giving is uppermost in our minds. We have our lists of names consisting of family, friends, school teachers, music teachers, soccer coaches, yardmen, babysitters, etc. We want to remember everyone who has contributed to our lives in some way this year. In our ultra-materialistic society, we have countless avenues available for buying presents. We have the ease of being able to shop online, or we can drive to stores and search through the aisles. Some love the challenge of awaiting the opening of store doors on Black Friday, to rush in and scamper through the stores in a frantic search for the DEALS!! ( I will admit here that I am not ever, ever going to do that….I treasure my sleep and will never awaken early in order to stand in a line to buy anything!! )
Biblical Gifts of the Magi
We do all of this gift-giving because of the example we received from the Biblical story of the Magi. We have read about those wise men who came from far away to show their love for the Christ Child. They laid their gifts before Him, to signal their love and thankfulness to Him, and to demonstrate the hope that they felt because of His arrival. In giving to others, we emulate this show of appreciation and love. It is a wonderful tradition, but honestly, as we humans are want to do, we have managed to escalate our Christmas giving to an experience that often doesn’t quite match the tenor of that original gift-giving event. Some times our gift-giving can look more like a competition in ostentation or the practice of conspicuous consumption. As we are daily bombarded by TV ads, internet ads, newspaper ads and billboards, our shopping can reach a fever pitch! The urge to try to buy what others buy and show ourselves to be Big Spenders can really undermine our experience of giving gifts to others.
O. Henry’s Gifts of the Magi
As a child, I remember watching a TV dramatization of O. Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi.” You probably are well acquainted with the story of the young married couple who, lacking money for presents, sought to find a way to give each other gifts that would show their love. The wife, Della, had beautiful long hair, and she knew that cutting it off and selling it would provide her enough money to buy a platinum watch fob chain for Jim’s watch. As she sadly watched her hair fall to the floor, she was grateful that she would be able to give Jim a gift that he would cherish. Jim, in his search for some way to buy a set of ornamental combs for Della’s beautiful hair, decided that he would part with his beloved watch. Once sold, he went to purchase the combs. Of course, on Christmas morning, as they gave each other their gifts, they realized that they both had sacrificed something that was special to them, in order to give something that would be special to each other. While Della may have ended up with combs she could not use and Jim had a chain for a non-existent watch, they saw that the love they shared was deep, true and abiding, that nothing that they possessed could match the worth and value of their love.
That type of selfless love is what God gives to each of us. He has given to us, sacrificially, with a love that is truly priceless and that has no equal. The Christmas season is a time when we celebrate the coming of God’s love in the form of a child. This child entered a world full of struggle, pain, and sadness, in order to show us how to live joyfully and how to truly love. Our lives are better and richer when we accept that loving gift and live our days in gratitude for it.
In this Christmas season, I hope that we may all re-discover the authentic, genuine gift-giving that comes when our hearts are full of love and gratitude.