Simple Gifts

Author: Nancy Wade


When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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. (Matthew 2: 10-11)

You may be familiar with the story written by O. Henry and published in the New York Sunday World on December 10, 1905. Titled The Gift of the Magi, it tells the story of a young, married couple, Della and Jim, who don’t have enough money to buy Christmas gifts for each other. Secretly, each of them decides to sell one of their most prized possessions (in Jim’s case, his pocket watch and in Della’s, her long beautiful hair) in order to have enough money to buy a gift for the other.

This story was told from the pulpit at the church where I grew up and I never grew tired of hearing it. The original story is charming, with a plot twist at the end, which I will not give away here. I think of O. Henry’s story every year during the Christmas season and it reminds me to be thoughtful in the selection and giving of gifts to those on my list.

In the verse from the gospel of Matthew, quoted above, the Magi came to visit the baby Jesus after his birth, bringing frankincense, myrrh, and gold – essentially all that they had to give. And in the short story, Della and Jim give everything they have as well, in order to give priceless gifts to one another.

As of this writing, I have almost completed my Christmas shopping. But unlike years ago, when I would actually drive to a store to find the most perfect gifts for family members and friends, this year, nearly all of my shopping was completed online. A month or so ago, I sent separate texts to my loved ones, asking for gift ideas. They, in turn, texted me links to the gifts they wanted. And in no time at all, I clicked on their links to buy the Christmas gifts they asked for. And now, each day brings the delivery of several packages to my door.

Did I find unique gifts for a few people that will surprise them? Yes. Will nearly each person know what is inside a wrapped gift from me on Christmas morning? Oh, probably. This is the moral dilemma I have struggled with over the past several years: Is it better to buy a gift for someone that you know they want or to spend time and effort to come up with an unexpected gift that will surprise them?

I like to think that the convenience of online shopping does not necessarily negate the thoughtfulness of gift selection. I tell myself that the holidays are less stressful when I buy gifts that I know my family members will appreciate. But I do find myself yearning for days past when choosing gifts felt special to both me and to the recipients.

God of the Universe: May we give all that we have to those we love during this Christmas season. And may we never forget the gifts given by the Magi to the baby in the manger – your son – all those years ago.

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