It’s one of those stories that I’ve never been able to get out of my mind. Penned by the American short-story writer O. Henry, I first read it in high school. The story is called, “The Gift of the Magi.”
It’s one of those stories that breaks your heart. The man and the woman in the story are deeply in love. They have very little, but they want to give special gifts to each other. And, secretly, they set about their task of finding precious gifts to give.
The man sells his treasured pocket watch and buys a special gift for his beloved. He buys beautiful combs for her hair.
At the very same time, the woman has her hair cut short – and she sells her hair to buy for her beloved . . . a gold chain for his pocket watch.
I can envision that gift-giving moment. He tenderly gives her combs that she doesn’t really need anymore. (Her head is covered and he isn’t yet aware that she has cut her hair.) She excitedly gives him the gold chain for a watch that he no longer has. (And she, of course, does not yet know that the watch is gone.)
And then there is that moment of revelation and clarity when it becomes clear what has happened.
It is a sad, sad scene – but, all the same, a scene unsurpassed in beauty and purity. As we read the story, we don’t know whether to laugh or to cry – or to wish that someday we might experience that same kind of love and sacrifice.
O. Henry called his story “The Gift of the Magi.” He intended for his readers to be drawn to the real story of the Magi (the Wise Men). In some ways, the gifts they give Jesus don’t seem needed either. Gold for a king? Frankincense for royalty? Myrrh for a burial? On the other hand, what better gifts for this Child King – who would eventually die for us?
We can learn a lot about Christmas by focusing on the gifts that are given. The gift that God has given. The gifts that the Wise Men give. And even the gifts that we give to others.
They say, “It’s the thought that counts.” And they are probably right when they say that! That’s especially true when it comes to the gift that God has given to us.