O. Henry’s classic tale “The Gift of the Magi” tells of Jim and Della, a young married couple who are struggling financially. As Christmas approaches they want to give special gifts to each other, but their lack of money drives them to drastic measures. Jim’s prized possession is a gold watch, while Della’s is her long, beautiful hair. So Jim sells his watch in order to buy combs for Della’s hair, while Della sells her hair to buy a chain for Jim’s watch.
The story has deservedly become beloved, for it reminds us that sacrifice is at the heart of true love, and sacrifice is love’s truest measure. This idea is particularly appropriate for Christmas, because sacrifice is the heartbeat of the story of the birth of Christ. Jesus Christ was born to die, and He was born to die for us. That is why the angel told Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Long before Christ’s birth, it had been determined that He would come to rescue us from our fallenness—which means that we can never fully appreciate the manger unless we see it in the shadow of the cross. Christmas is completely about Christ’s love, seen most clearly in His sacrifice for us.