I’m excited to share an old, old story that I first heard when I was a little girl. It has stayed with me ever since I heard it.
“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry was first published in a New York Newspaper back in 1905, but the message of this tale is a timeless classic. The plot centers around the Christmas gift exchange of Jim and Della Young.
Times were tight for the pair as Jim’s pay had been reduced. And Della was literally scraping together pennies to buy her sweet Jim a gift.
Della didn’t have enough money to give Jim a gift that would honor him and express her love for him. So a sacrifice was in order. The only asset Della had was her beautiful hair that nearly touched the floor.
Not knowing what else to do, Della made the decision to sell her hair for $20. Now, she could give a gift that was truly worthy of her man.
Della found a gorgeous platinum watch fob that Jim could hang on his beloved pocket watch. The watch was his most prized possession aside from Della—it had been passed down from his great grandfather.
Della spent the afternoon anxiously awaiting her Jim to come home. She imagined all of the expressions he might have, except the one he wore upon entering the door. Jim was speechless upon arriving home and seeing Della’s new “do.”
Not believing his eyes, Jim asked in astonishment, “You cut your hair?”
Now we’ll pick up the last bit of the story as it is told by O. Henry:
Jim looked about the room curiously.
“You say your hair is gone?” he said, with an air almost of idiocy.
“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold, I tell you–sold and gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,” she went on with sudden serious sweetness, “but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?”
Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year–what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.
Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.
“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”
White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.
For there lay The Combs–the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims–just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.
But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”
And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”
Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”
“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. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
They each sacrificed much to present a love gift to one another. Reflecting on their selfless acts, I can’t help but reflect on the gift of Jesus we celebrate during the Christmas season.
What a great price He paid for us! Let’s give in love to one another the same way this Christmas and all the year through.
I’ll leave you with this passage from Romans 5:15-16:
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.”
Through Christ, we have free access to God!
WHAT A GIFT!
We would love to hear a story from you where someone sacrificed something to give you a gift. Please leave us a comment.
Have a very Merry Christmas, friends!
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