Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Christmas story


CHRISTMAS is here again. How quickly a year has fled! One would fain like Lamb, lay a finger upon the spoke of the great wheel! It is the feast of everyman – the feast when barriers break down that divide man from man. Even if you don’t believe in Christ you can still celebrate Christmas. It has come to be the season of goodwill.
Many myths have gathered around the birth of Christ, myths, which do no not falsify but rather illuminate the basic belief that God became man and dwelt among us, to show us in His life and His death on the cross, how costly a life of love can be.
One myth is that of the simple shepherds who were sitting on a hillside in Palestine watching their sheep on a clear cold night. Suddenly a light shone around them and they heard angels singing a song they had never heard before. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and goodwill among men".
Well, no one can quarrel with this message. So we have the message of goodwill, a humble, earthy and practical virtue. To love one another is a pretty tall order. Most of us are so unutterably unloveable that only God and his saints can bestow love upon us.
Considering how the story of Christmas has been embedded in folk imagination it is not surprising that it has been a frequent theme in English literature. The three wise men from the East brought the first Christmas gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and placed them at the feet of Infant Jesus. O. Henry uses this legend as a parable of love, in his famous short story, THE GIFT OF MAGI.
A young couple loves each other very dearly. It is Christmas eve and they long to give each other gifts but they have no money. The girl glances at herself in a mirror and an idea seizes her. She has long wavy auburn hair that falls in cascade down her back. She had always wanted a tortoiseshell comb to hold it up in place. She knew she could never afford this. Why not sell her hair and buy a chain for the watch, which is her beloved’s most precious possession?
The young husband also faces a dilemma. He longs to buy a tortoiseshell comb to hold up the beautiful flowing tresses of his wife. How often he has buried his face in its luxuriance. His watch was precious but useless without a chain. Why not sell it and buy the comb? He could anticipate the rapture in the eys of his beloved.
So they follow the impulses. They meet in the evening and one may imagine their plight – a chain without a watch. A comb, without the lovely cascade. But in O. Henry’s words, "let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest." They are gifts as precious as those of the Magi because they are symbols of Love’s sacrifice on Christmas Day.

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