Gift of the Magi and the Savior Jesus Christ
Of sacrifice and the Savior
Alex Mac Farland
December 2016 – As I was growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, my grade school education included learning about one of the town’s more famous past residents, William Sydney Porter. Perhaps you’ve heard of his pseudonym, “O. Henry.” Porter (1862-1910) left employment in his family’s drug store to establish himself as a writer.
He is best remembered for crafting “The Gift of the Magi,” one of America’s best loved short stories. The story has captivated readers around the globe. A young husband and wife are deeply in love but financially poor. Yet each secretly sacrifices greatly in order to buy the other an extravagant Christmas gift – combs for her hair and a chain for his pocket watch. Their sacrifices provide the irony that climaxes this tender Christmas classic.
Their actions certainly demonstrate sacrificial love, but as a child, I was frustrated by it. It was years before I understood the ultimate act of sacrificial love on which O. Henry’s story was based.
The Old Testament book of Isaiah points to the coming Savior in a number of key passages. Isaiah famously speaks of the one who would someday be “led like a Lamb to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7), and “by Whose stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24). Writing around 750 BC, Isaiah prophesied events from the Savior’s time on earth that we would later read about in the Gospels: He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:34). The Messiah would be God incarnate (Isaiah 9:6, Mark 14:61, John 10:30-33). He would be beaten beyond recognition before being put to death on the cross (Isaiah 52:14, Matthew 27:26-31).
Here is where the facts about Christmas might seem to be as hard to reconcile as the ending of an O. Henry tale. Clearly, the Father loves and cherishes His unique and only Son, Jesus. So much so that when Christ was suffering for the sins of the world and dying on the Cross, the Father looked away. Though no one fully understands how, for the first and only time in all of eternity, the Father and the Son were separated. As Christ’s horrific betrayal, woundings, and death culminated, it is a wonder that the wrath of God didn’t erupt onto the entire globe.
The irony is that Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Father to bruise Him” (literally, “to crush Him”). How can this be? How could God possibly have been pleased with the vicious execution of the One called “His beloved Son”? How could the hateful and brutal treatment of Jesus been pleasing to the Father?
The wording of Isaiah and similar passages such as John 3:16 show the compassionate heart of the Father: If it means that you would be saved – restored in this life and saved from hell in the next – the Father’s heart in Isaiah 53:10 is essentially saying to all of us, “I did all of this because I love you.”
Unlike the best human writers, God leaves no holes in the plotline of His amazing drama! Think of it: In Jesus’s coming to earth, the Author wrote Himself into the play. And He invites you, through faith in Christ, to enter into the story. Christ’s presence in the Bible and His work through history truly are the greatest story ever told. In love, God sent His Son. In love, the Son died and arose. And in love, we meet Jesus personally.
What makes this more than just a great story is the element no other author could include: The cliffhanger story of Jesus happens also to be…reality.
Alex McFarland is co-host of Exploring the Word heard daily on American Family Radio. He is author of 17 books, and speaks regularly around the U.S. Learn more at alexmcfarland.com and purchase his books at afastore.net.
Read “The Gift of the Magi” at https://americanenglish.state.gov