Sunday, December 11, 2011


"Ave Christus, morituri te salutamus!"

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”. (Luke 2:13.14/NKJV)

     L ast year at Christmas as I was looking for something to blog about I briefly discussed some literature and its redemptive qualities (see also here, here and here).  This year I hope to do the same and, I think it is obvious from the picture above, one piece of literature I hope to blog about is The Gift of The Magi by O. Henry*.  I must confess that all I know about O. Henry is simply this; he was an American and his real name was William Sydney Porter.  So I do apologize for my lack of biographical knowledge.  I honestly have no idea whether his life was one spent in the debaucheries of sin or in the enlightenment of saintliness.  The apostle Paul wisely said, "...ask nothing for conscience sake." and so (in the case of O. Henry's bio) I will follow that advise.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." (John 15:13/NKJV)

     Y et whether Mr. Porter, aka O. Henry, was a "sinner" or a "saint" we cannot deny the humanity and stark truth which we are confronted with in his story The Gift of the Magi.  I quote John 15 above not because someone in the story gives their life, at least not in the literal sense.  However, we must remember there are other ways of giving ones life.  It is this "other way" that we get a glimpse of in O. Henry's brief (there are only 2163 words in the story) tale.  It is not only in their large but also in their small actions that we see both Jim and Della (O. Henry's characters in the story) would be more then willing to give that "...last full measure of devotion..." which Abrahan Lincoln so highly honors in his Gettysburg Address.  It is the daily devotion, the daily giving of one's own life that we see in both the characters, and if we are honest we would say daily devotion and daily giving of one's own life can often be more difficult than that ultimate sacrifice.
     S o what specifically in this vignette reflects shared sacrifice and the pleasure of giving, i.e. other then Della's obvious sacrifice of her hair and Jim's obvious sacrifice of his watch, what do we see?  The answer to this immediately begins with O. Henry's introduction of Della at start of the whole story;
"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas."
                                                                                       The Gift of the Magi
In this succinct paragraph O. Henry not only shows us Della's dilemma, but part of her character. We see that Della is frugal and has some grit; "Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony..."

"Simul iustus et peccator"*
*Martin Luther
*NOTE; for other short stories by O. Henry go here

scripture sources;
Bible Gateway
image source;
The Gift of The Magi (bookcover)

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