Typically, it’s a Christmas story. Gift of the Magi is a sweet tale about Jim and Della, a young husband and wife in the 1900s, trying to secretly buy each other meaningful Christmas gifts on a very tight budget. The couple is going through hard financial times as Jim’s wages have been cut.
Della is known for her beautiful, long hair. It’s gorgeous and cascades softly down to her knees. But, because she only has $1.87, she cuts and sells her hair in order to buy her husband an elegant watch chain for his pocket watch, the most valuable possession he owns. He currently uses an old leather strap and Della knows he would love to have a real chain, and thinks it would be the perfect gift. She rushes home to try and fix her short hair, hoping Jim will still think she is beautiful without her long locks. (Why she thinks her beauty is only tied to her hair is a whole ‘nuther issue)
Meanwhile, Jim has gone to buy fancy combs for his wife’s long, beautiful hair; jeweled, tortoiseshell combs that require more money than he has in his pocket. In order to purchase such an expensive gift, Jim sells his beloved pocket watch just so he can see the joy on his wife’s face when she opens the gift he thinks will be perfect for her.
Jim returns home and is shocked to discover Della’s hair is short. When they exchange Christmas gifts, they realize the sacrifice each one made for the other’s happiness.
Jim and Della willingly give up something they treasure because their love transcends anything in their possession. Being poor, they didn’t have many possessions to begin with, and their willingness to sacrifice something so important is a reflection of the depth of love and respect they have for each other over themselves. It was never about their own self; never about what the other one could or would do for them.
The story is one of selfless love and sacrifice. Sacrifice that is born out of putting someone else above ourselves. How often do we think our relationships exist simply to fulfill our own needs and wants? How willing are we to give up and sacrifice the parts of us we cling to as our self-professed identity? What do we truly value in a relationship? Is it what the other person can do and be for us, or is it what we can do and be for them?
The sad truth is, there isn’t a lot of self-sacrifice in relationships these days. All too often, it’s all about us, isn’t it? What we want. What we need. Seldom do we realize the sacrifices others make on our behalf…sometimes behind the scenes. We’re too focused on ourselves and being center stage.
The Magi in the story of Jesus’ birth brought gifts of great value to the infant King of Kings. They are more commonly known as the Three Wise Men or Three Kings..although they were not nobility. They traveled great distance to bring their gifts to the Messiah. Gifts that were highly prized by any culture’s standards, and surely cost a small fortune in that day and age. The Magi selflessly gave these gifts, without any strings attached or ulterior motives. They gave out of love and respect…expecting nothing in return.
The narrator of the story call Della and Jim the wisest of everyone who gives gifts since they put each other’s needs above their own wants…they proved themselves, as the Magi of old, to possess the wisdom of selfless love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…~1 Corinthians 13:4-5
What selfless love and sacrificial act can we do today to show someone else how important they are to us?