Christmas Sunday – December 25, 2016
Read: Matthew 2:1-12
Focus: vs 11
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
I love a good short story and O. Henry is one of my favorite authors. He wrote such stories as The Ransom of Red Chief and The Gift of the Magi. The Gift of the Magi tells the story of Jim and Della, a couple who love each other dearly and want to give each other gifts for Christmas but don’t have any money to spare. So they each attempt to do something in secret as they sacrifice something dear to find the money to purchase the perfect gift for the other.
Della has beautiful hair and Jim wants to buy her some jeweled combs for her to wear that she had longed for ever since seeing them in the store window. Jim has a beautiful gold watch and Della wants to buy him a gold chain to go along with it. With no money, each would have to sell something without the other knowing in order to buy their thoughtful gift. So Della has her hair cut off and sells it for enough money to buy that gold chain. Jim sells his gold watch in order to buy those jeweled combs. Well, you can see the problem coming when they give their thoughtful gifts to each other on Christmas Eve.
Here’s how O. Henry ends the story: “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. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”
What a cute story! And I’ve done it no justice recounting it to you here today. I encourage you to check it out, it’s worth the read. The Magi are part of the great story of baby Jesus. They traveled far as they read the prophecies and stars. They were guided by God to bring their gifts to a king far greater than they could ever be. They bowed before Jesus and laid gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh at his feet. The gifts were special but what I really love about this part of the story is that they brought gifts to the king, who was the very gift of God to all of us. We honor that gift by giving gifts to each other – and that is a very fitting custom! But how often do we give gifts back to Jesus?
Jim and Della sacrificed that which was most dear to them to give something special to each other. It’s a beautiful picture, despite the silliness it wrought, for, you see, it is their sacrificial love for each other that points to some special wisdom. Today is a day for giving gifts to each other in honor of the greatest gift already given to us – the gift of Jesus. Perhaps this season has given God much room to change you from the inside out as you’ve given gifts back to Jesus by doing good works and serving others. I hope it is a habit that has formed within your heart – that serving others will flow from your newly created heart; that you will give in the hope that a much greater gift can be given; that you will take the seed God has given you and sow it generously in order to reap a generous harvest; that you will serve others as you seek the mind of Christ for your own mind; and that you will give the gift of service sacrificially out of great love for one another.
Keep up the good works! God loves you! Have a Merry Christmas!