The popular Christmas story, “The Gift of the Magi,” was written by  William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), using the pseudonym, “O’ Henry.”  The plotline of O’Henry’s Christmas story has captivated readers around the globe: 

A young couple was deeply in love, but financially poor. Each sacrificed precious possessions to raise money to give a gift to the other.  The husband sold an heirloom pocket watch o buy his wife a set of combs and pins for her hair (In the late 1800’s, such things were made of tortoise shell, pearl, or ivory. They were very expensive and greatly desired).  The wife—whose lovely hair was her pride and joy— had her long hair cut and sold the hair to buy her husband a gold chain for his treasured watch.

Selfless love is certainly demonstrated in the actions of O’Henry’s characters. But the story has a deeper meaning when it’s understood to reflect the ultimate act of sacrificial love on which O’Henry’s based his story. 

God’s Story

O’Henry’s story of sacrificial love reminds us of the sacrficial love of God. Let’s consider the prophecies of Isaiah and the historical accounts of the Gospels, and then compare God’s story to O’Henry’s story.

The book of Isaiah points to the coming Savior in a number of key passages. Isaiah prophecied of the One who would someday be, “led like a Lamb to slaughter” (53:7), and “by Whose stripes we are healed (Is. 53:5, I Peter 2:24).  Writing around 750 BC, Isaiah amazingly portrayed scenes from the Savior’s time on earth that would be fulfilled and later written about in the Gospel accounts.

  • He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, c.f. Lk. 1:34).
  • The Messiah would be God incarnate (Isaiah 9:6, c.f.  Mark 14:61-61 and John 10:30-33). 
  • He would be beaten beyond recognition, even before being put to death on the Cross (Isaiah 52:14, c.f.  Matthew 27:26-31).

O’Henry’s Story

The parallel in O’Henry’s story is clearly seen. The husband and wife had such great love for each other, that they sacrificed their treasured posession to purchase a gift that would bring the other joy. This certainly reflects God the Father’s love.  He cherishes His unique and only Son, Jesus. Yet, “it pleased the Father to bruise Him” (to sacrifice Him) Isaiah 53:10.  Why? Because of His great love for us and so that we might receive joy!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)  

Both the story of O’Henry and the greatest story ever told (God’s story of redemption) are stories of great sacrifice that led to abundant joy for the recipients of the gifts!

The Differences in the Two Stories?

While the similarities in the stories are interesting, the differences between them are most significant. 

  1. O’Henry’s story is one of fiction. The story of Jesus is true.  In fact, it’s much more than a story. It’s a historical account of that which really happened. The God of all creation, in His love and mercy, sent His Son Jesus to live the life we could never live and die the death that should be ours.
  2. O’Henry’s story is one of sacrificing material possessions. In God’s story the blood of Jesus was shed. Greater than giving up a prized possession, Jesus gave up His life so we can live!
  3. The characters in O’Henry’s story used the money from the possessions sold to buy gifts of great value.  God’s gift of redemption can’t be bought — it’s free!  
  4. In O’Henry’s story, the gifts received were temporal, earthly treasures.  In God’s story, the gift we receive is eternal with heavenly treasures — new life in Christ! PRICELESS!!!

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Do not be anxious about anything.  (Phil 4:6)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must rightly remember who is in control.  Our God is sovereign over all things, including COVID-19.  As Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, “The sovereignty of God is a soft pillow on which weary people lay their heads.” 

Remember also God’s gracious promise, and that it is true and He is faithful to keep it:  Hebrews 13:5 …”I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  The next verse remind us of the power that comes in trusting God and how we can live:  Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man [or COVID-19] shall do to me.

God loves us, and in Christ we find confidence and calm in times of uncertainty and trouble.  When we trust in God, fear is replaced with faith, stress is replaced with strength, anxiety is gone and hope abounds, problems become opportunities, and we are able to receive the blessings God has for us in the midst of difficult circumstances. Turn to Jesus. He will lead you to the still waters and give rest for your troubled soul.  

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…Hebrews 6:19

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When leaving a tract, always be diligent to pray about the short gospel message. Pray that it be found by someone who is in need of Jesus’ saving grace, and pray that the person will have a tender heart and open ears to receive the gift Jesus desires to give them.  

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