Advent reflection: The Gift of the Magi

Three wise men on camels traveling in front of nativity star
Three wise men on camels traveling in front of nativity star

This is a time of year when we love to consume sentimental stories we feel are appropriate to Christmas. Watching or reading A Christmas Carol. It’s A Wonderful Life. A Charlie Brown Christmas…a favorite for more than five decades including scripture quotations.

In 2021, there are also all the Christmas movies on Hallmark and Lifetime.

The Gift of the Magi is part of this rich tradition. It’s a short story by O. Henry, an author who loved words, a good plot twist and humor. This story, definitely a Christmas story, has all those.

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The Gift of the Magi, if you have not read it or seen some video version of it, fits all those sentimental versions of the Christmas season. It will tug at your heart.

It is a quick read, truly a short story, taking maybe 15 minutes cover to cover. It was written in 1905, so the young man and the young woman who are the featured characters in the story are in traditional roles. Some language is more familiar to that era than ours.

This is how the story ends.

“…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.”

Without giving up too much of a spoiler, suffice it to say that the young man and the young woman in The Gift of the Magi, a couple with few resources, sacrifice their valued earthly treasures out of love for each other.

We don’t really talk much about sacrifice around Christmas. Parents might sacrifice the things they would get each other to prioritize gifts for the children. Some people unfortunately sacrifice financial stability to try to purchase what they think is needed for a successful Christmas.

The Magi were the wise men—the Three Kings, as we frequently refer to them—who in their wisdom recognized that a special new king was born.

Which leads to this question: Why do we celebrate Christmas?

Clearly, there is the wonder of the birth of the baby Jesus: Emmanuel, God with us.

It’s not just that God came to earth, though. Because of love, in the fulfillment of God’s plan, Christ would grow and would eventually be sacrificed for our sins, then resurrected.

If you only know one Bible verse, is probably it:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

It’s a mystery to us how this all came together. But out of love, God sacrificed His only son. Jesus willingly went to the cross as a sacrifice for us all.

What would you sacrifice out of love for another? Here’s what Ephesians 5:2 suggests:

“…Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

As Christmas approaches, it’s a good time to remember what God the Father and Jesus the Son sacrificed for us.

Relax this season, enjoy all your favorite stories. Read and watch what brings your heart closer to God. As you do, think about sacrifice based on love.

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