Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
The writer William Sydney Porter, who used the name O. Henry, published the short story The Gift of the Magi in 1905. The story about the Christmas gifts has been told in many versions in theater, radio, film, television and now on the internet.
The story is about a young couple James and Della, recently married and living in New York City on a tight budget. Despite trying to save money a penny at a time, Della had only $1.87 to buy a gift for her husband, James. They only had two items of value. James had a pocket watch which has been handed down from generation to generation. And Della had been blessed with beautiful long brown hair.
On Christmas Eve, Della decides to cut off and sell her hair to buy a gold chain for her husband’s pocket watch. Her husband James returns home to discover a short hair version of his wife Della. She explains she gave up her lovely hair to purchase for him a Christmas gift of a chain for his watch. She asks him to give her his watch so that she can attach the chain.
James leans back on the couch and shows his gift to her. He shows Della the set of combs that she wanted to brush her long hair. Then, he tells her that he sold his watch so he could buy the combs for her.
Although they were surprised that it did not end the way that they expected, they had both given up their most valued possessions to be able to give to the other. In one way, their efforts seem foolish, but on a deeper level their generosity showed how much they loved one another.
O. Henry’s timeless and ironic tale of The Gift of the Magi correctly points us back to the source of the tradition of giving gifts during the Christmas Season. Each year we hear the story of the three Kings or Magi from the East bringing precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor the newborn child Jesus. The Magi traveled far to be part of the birth of the King of Kings. They returned home with the good news of Jesus’ birth.
We follow their example by giving the best gifts we can afford to our families and loved ones. Like Della and James, we sometimes question the wisdom of our generosity. We could get something for ourselves or just save the money for a rainy day. Sometimes our gifts are not appreciated or used. However, the reward of our giving is that it opens our hearts and expresses the love we have for others.
The Magi and our gifts reflect the ultimate gift we received on the first Christmas. We were given the gift beyond any price. The world received the greatest gift of God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Whenever we give our time, our talents, and treasure, we follow the example of Jesus, who gave everything including His life so that we could know the way to eternal life.
During the past two years of the pandemic, it has been difficult to travel to be with family and friends. It has also been difficult to get to our churches to pray and to be with our faith community of Byzantine Catholics. We pray that we will be able to return to normal soon. It was especially joyful to gather for the Saint Nicholas Celebration to renew friendships and meet new friends.
Like Jesus, the Magi, and even James and Della, we give not only gifts at Christmas, but we also give our time, treasure, and talents all year long. With each gift and sacrifice, we become a little more like Christ.
In the words of O. Henry, “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.” O. Henry – The Gift of the Magi 1905
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh