Rev Sue’s December letter to the parish

The gift of the Magi

Christmas is a time for the telling of sentimental tales. You may know this one written in 1906, by the American author O. Henry. If you do, then never mind – Christmas is also a time for re-telling the old stories.

Della and Jim are a young married couple who are struggling to make ends meet. Della wants to buy Jim a Christmas present and sees a platinum watch chain to go with his watch, his prize possession. It had belonged to his father and his grandfather before him. She had but one asset – her beautiful brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders down to her knees. So on Christmas Eve she cut off her hair and sold it to a woman who made wigs.

Jim came in that evening with a look of consternation on his face. For a moment she thought that he hated the way she looked, but then he gave her his gift – a beautiful set of tortoiseshell combs for putting in her hair. She had seen them in the shop and had really wanted them. But what good were they now? She handed Jim his gift. He opened the package, looked at the watch chain and smiled. He had sold his watch to pay for the combs.

There are several possible endings. Perhaps they were both sad that their gifts, both given and received, were useless, and spent Christmas day putting on a brave face. Or worse, they had a row, each accusing the other of being too extravagant. Or, and this is the one O. Henry chooses, Della is philosophical and realises that her hair will grow back, and she can keep the combs until then. Jim is amused by the irony, and they are both overwhelmed that the other had sacrificed so much for the gift. The author calls his story the Gift of the Magi (the wise men in the Bible). They were, he said, the wisest possible gifts.

Some people are brilliant at choosing just the right gift. But if, like me you agonise over each one, trying to get it just right, then be comforted. It is the love in the heart of the giver that matters. The first Christmas gift was not from the Wise Men, but the gift of Christ himself coming to us as a tiny baby. He gave up the joys of heaven to suffer with us on earth. What greater sacrifice and what greater gift could there be? This Advent and Christmas let Christ’s love be our guide in all we do and say, in our celebrating and our shopping, our sending of cards and our visiting, and our giving and our receiving.

Have a truly blessed and joyful Christmas!

Rev Sue

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