(I have been publishing Christmas columns both old and new the last few days. This is the last one for the season. It’s time to prepare for guests. GN)
The Presence of Presents
I’ve always felt funny about Christmas gifts. I like them but feel guilty when I get a gift during someone else’s birthday. I almost let my guilt make me do something stupid this Christmas season.
I like gifts but this year I told my wife, Lisa that I didn’t want any gifts. I said I’d rather she just make a donation to the local animal shelter. It seemed strange that we both had to agonize over a Christmas gift list when neither one of us really lacked for anything. The focus of Christmas should be the birth of Jesus and nothing more. My wife eventually gave up hope for a few gifts under the tree and even threw away her gift list for us. I later realized that while my focus on Christmas was good my tactics were shortsighted and poorly executed. The wise men bore the first Christmas gifts and so started a tradition as old as Christmas. The traditions developed are the familiar glue that draw and bind us together through shared memories. A Christmas gift to for my wife was an excellent way to remind her that I love her and cherish her love for me. I almost derailed this nice little tradition and shame on me for it. In the end we decided to give gifts to each other and include those who have nothing. Lisa and I will gift each other but the humane society is going to get something too. Another man-made crisis avoided.
I thought this episode was done but I recently read a story that made gift giving between people make even more sense. “The Gift of the Magi” is a fictional story written by O Henry about Della and James Dillingham Young, about a young English couple down on their luck but very in love.
Neither Della nor James has enough money to buy the other a gift but Della sells her beautiful hair to buy James a fob for his pocket watch. James so loves Della that while she is selling her hair he is selling that treasured watch so he can purchase combs for Della’s beautiful hair. When James brings Della’s present home he is dumfounded by her lack of hair but wraps her in his arms when she explains her hair was traded for his Christmas present.
Della’s hair will grow back and she loves the new combs James brought for her and she gives her gift to him. He loves the new fob for the watch that he has already traded for his gift to Della. They both fall back on the couch and laugh, first at the irony of the situation and second in astonishment of how they love each other. Love so strong that they happily give up the things they cherish for the one they cherish. Just as God gave up the son he cherished for the children he cherished.
There is no greater emotion than love and there is never a time when the world loves better than at Christmas. There is never a better time to give the ones we love a reminder of that love than at Christmas. That is why at our home there will now and forever be the presence of presents.