Spirituality for Today – December 2010 – Volume 15, Issue 5

Editorial – Worthy of the Magi

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

What do you want for Christmas? This question has been asked innumerably over the past month. But let us consider modifying this inquiry in a most interesting way. I wish to put the question as not what you want for Christmas, but what should you want for Christmas? Now, there is a more intriguing and compelling question. In a humble effort to answer that query, allow me to reference an old Christmas story.

A photo of gift wrapped in gold paper with a large red ribbon

Of all the short stories of William Sydney Porter (O. Henry), the most popular and, perhaps, the most poignant is The Gift of the Magi. For over a century, this heart-warming tale has touched millions. This revealing tale invites the reader to question what the richest of gifts really is. As the story goes, there was this young and financially struggling couple who were faced with the mutual problem of how to raise a sufficient amount of money to buy a fitting Christmas present for each other.

James Dillingham Young and his wife Della were very much in love. The most valuable possession of Jim's was a fine gold watch passed down from father to son for three generations. Della's valuable possession was her gloriously abundant and magnificent knee-length hair. They were both most proud of these. Neither Jim nor Della had enough money to buy each other what they would consider a worthy gift. Unknown to one another, each decided to sacrifice their most prized possession in order to obtain the required funds. Jim sold his gold watch to buy his wife Della a set of beautiful and costly combs for her luxurious hair. And Della cut off her hair and sold it to buy her beloved husband a platinum watch chain.

Later on that Christmas Eve, they discovered how they had each sacrificed their personal treasures in order to buy a special gift that would enhance the very object that they had sacrificed. In reality, they actually had received the greatest gift that they ever could have given each other – a supreme expression of the depth of their love. Thus, O. Henry concludes his story: "The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. ...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 the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi."

Ready to give up a highly regarded source of their self-esteem, Jim and Della gave of themselves to adorn each other's material source of joy. Although they faced an obvious scene of mutual frustration and comic irony, they truly experienced the most magical Christmas of all. For they had unveiled for each other the authenticity and sincerity of a married love, a love that illuminated the ultimate treasure and the ultimate gift that they, or any other married couple could ever share, the awareness that the most valuable possession that they could every posses is each other.

Returning to the question considered in this article: What should we want for Christmas? I would say that we should want for this Christmas the same gift that we should want for all our Christmases. We should want a faith that grows in appreciation and gratitude of the greatest gift a loving God could bestow upon his children: His only begotten Son who would give His life for the salvation of all mankind. If we could bind this miraculous gift to the depth of our hearts and souls, we all could be taken up in the true wonder of Christmas and we could approach that manger with a soul and a gift worthy of the magi.