Sometime during junior high I read O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi” and I fell in love with it. I vividly remember the day in that high-ceilinged, chalk-dusty room when we first started reading it. I assumed it would be about baby Jesus and the wise men. When it wasn’t, I was intrigued. Why that name for the story, I pondered? To this day that tale of the great love of Jim and Della and the sacrifices they made to buy presents for each other is one of my favorite short stories and is foundational in my character. I think of it often and use it as an example or lesson here and there. In fact, it was one of those behavior-changing stories for me. In college, when my newly wed husband and I were totally broke, the memory of that story challenged me so much, that I sold my highschool class ring to buy my husband a present for our first anniversary. If you haven’t already read the tale, now would be a good time. It takes about 5 minutes. Here’s the link. My Christmas gift to you! Knowing the story will give you some background for this blog article. Plus, you’ll love it!
So tonight as I sit alone under the glow of my Christmas tree lights in a silent house, I’m pondering this heart-warming story. The Biblical Magi gave gifts to the baby Jesus and this secular tale is a story about gift-giving; that is the basic reason behind the title (which I did figure out by the end of the story that first day as I read). But so much more is bubbling through my thoughts. Where is my heart this Christmas? What are my motives in gift-giving? Do I love well? Other than with my family, am I really generous at heart? Am I a Magi? I would like to be.
The scriptural Magi, the wise men, set out to follow a star to find and worship the newborn King of the Jews. They went through lengthy, difficult travels – no SUV with AC and a DVD to occupy the kids, stopping at fast food restaurants and well-manicured rest areas any time they needed a break. NO. Their trek involved days of preparations (if not weeks), taking with them all the food and animals, and animal fodder, and water, and clothing and whatever else they might need for a long journey to an unknown destination. Whoa! What a task. And all that work just to worship!
In your life, are you even on the journey? Or would you have been one of the thousands of “un-wise” men who didn’t bother to go search for Him?
Those Magi of old found the Babe, the Christ. The first thing they did was to worship Him. Is this our first reaction to Christ? To bow and worship? And what did they do after they worshipped? That’s the part we hear of the most. Springing out of their worship, they gave Him gifts. That’s why we give gifts today to celebrate Christ’s birth, because gifts were brought to Him at His birth and because the heavenly Father gave us this greatest gift of all – a Savior born in a manger.
If you’re on the journey, are you a diligent, whatever-it-takes wise man preparing to worship Him? Or would you have been an “un-wise” man milling around Bethlehem with a complacent “hmm-a star-meh” attitude?
I recently noticed something in scripture that I’d never really thought about. They opened their treasures and gave Him gifts out of their treasures. Do we bring gifts to Him out of our treasures? Or do we give him something cheap to us? Do we offer the thrift store present? Or re-gift him with the free one from last year’s Christmas party that we didn’t want? Or wrap up a happy meal toy that’s still in the plastic?
Would you have been a wise man who stood up to King Herod and proceeded undeterred to worship the true King? Or are you more of an “un-wise” man whose faith gets strangled out by the cares of the world or side-tracked by any opposition or fiery trial you face?
What do I treasure? My husband. My children. My home. My possessions. My job. My time. My plan for my life…. Have I given Him those things I value the most? Just a reminder in the words of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Facing all sorts of difficulties, would you have been one of the few who actually made it to the manger to see the Son of God? Or are you today one of the “un-wise” ones always wishing you could experience Jesus the way “she” does and just a bit jealous that you don’t, yet unwilling to put out the effort to get you past the obstacles and to the Christ? It doesn’t just happen. It takes effort on your part. How many times have you bumped into the President as you rolled your trash can to the street while wearing your robe on a random Thursday morning? Doesn’t happen. Ladies, if we wish to experience the Christ with other wise men, we must gather our goods, load our camels, and travel long journeys. We must diligently prepare to worship Him. Set our hearts on Him. Be willing to pay a high price. Spend time and effort on our own in the Word.
In The Gift of the Magi, Jim and Della gave the things they valued most – the treasured watch and her glorious hair. They sacrificed these things because they loved so deeply. Out of their scarcity they found a way to give. Just like the widow at the temple who gave only two mites (1/5 of a cent each) but was praised by Jesus for giving more than all the others because she had given all that she had, her treasure.
Where do we stand ladies? Do we give to the Father out of our abundance (because we should) or out of our treasure (because we love deeply)? It is never foolish to love lavishly and give prodigally. Scripture tells us that we love because He first loved us. The more we live in the Father’s love, the more our love will grow. The more we love the Father, the more we will love people around us. Even the ones that are hard to love. And the more we give to our Heavenly Father, the more we will show generosity to the world around us. Wise “men,” let’s hold our treasure sack loosely and draw out our costly gifts generously. Let us be like the wise men of old. Let’s be like Jim & Della. Let’s be modern-day Magi.