A Christmas Message: His ‘Gift of the Magi’

Yellowstone at Christmas

Yellowstone at Christmas

December 7, 2013

On December 7th, the Christians Science Monitor, my favorite tabloid, published a quote of Nelson Mandela, South African’s heroic apartheid fighter, who died a few days ago, expressed by him after his more than two decades in prison:

“… As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”

On November 26, 2013, Pope Francis published an 84-page document, an apostolic exhortation, a platform for his papacy, saying:

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills … I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

A week later, radio host Rush Limbaugh, in words one would expect only from a dedicated champion of Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness, lambasted the Pope, calling his comments “pure Marxism.”

A few days later, I started Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, Sarah Palin’s latest book, but stopped after her description of her Christmas joy buying a Christmas present:

“To combat the anti-gun chatter coming from Washington, I surprised [Todd] with a nice, needed, powerful gun.”

Then, by chance, I heard Bill O’Reilly’s criticism of Macy’s “war on Christmas.”

And then I said “Enough!”

I set aside the Christmas poem I was writing for my blog about Santa and Pete Polar Bear, a follow-up to last Christmas’s poetic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

I knew it was time.

Time for me to revive and update a Christmas Message I wrote some 30 years ago. I would like to share it with you:

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is actually here! Goodwill. Cheer. Christmas carols. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Excitement. Up feelings. Parties.

However, sometimes we become so caught up in the glitter and excitement of Christmas that we forget what Christmas is really about. Christmas is, after all, a celebration of a birthday.

The birthday of a Man who, in the later part of His life, faced overwhelming odds, disappointments and stress, as well as ridicule and uncertainty that pale anything we might face today. And yet, His exemplification of manhood, His meeting of adversity, His living His life in unaltered fullness, His message of love and compassion, have changed lives and challenged men and women for 2,000 years.

He was physically strong. Did He not walk miles between Palestinian villages?

He was intellectually curious. Did He not challenge the scholars of His day when He was but 12 years old?

He loved crowds and people. Were they not with Him everywhere?

He was anything but meek and mild. Did he not stand up to Caesar and cleanse the Jerusalem temple?

He was compassionate and generous to a fault. Did He not wash the feet of His disciples rather than they His?

Of His 33 years, we know but only a few days. Most of those days deal with His period of great adversity; when He was ridiculed; when His 12 closest friends lost faith in Him and abandoned Him. Passages of scripture describe His emotion, His fears. His sweat, the physician Luke wrote in his Third Gospel, was like beads of blood on His brow.

Yet, He did not falter nor change His course.

His strength, His vision, His ability to be true to His purpose, His sense of right, survive his death and have inspired nations and men and women of all faiths throughout the ages.

In a sense, His message is a Gift of the Magi message for each of us – it’s a message about how we ought to live here on Earth. O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi is one of my favorite Christmas stories. The story is of a very young and loving, but poor couple. In the story, the young girl, down to her last 14 cents, sold long locks of her precious hair to buy a fob for her husband’s treasured watch, while he, also broke, pawned his treasured watch to buy a comb for her precious hair.

That is how He lived. That is how Pope Francis calls upon his followers to live. That is how Nelson Mandela lived.

Is that not how we should live? Is that not our Christmas Message, regardless of our faith?

______________________

Now, some of us may be uncomfortable with the idea that we become active participants and facilitators of our own Gift of the Magi for humankind and our Earth. And, some will say we have an excuse. He, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas, had a special gene, a God Gene, a gene we don’t have.

But the real Christmas Story – His Gift of the Magi – is not about His God Gene; it is about His humanity.

It is His humanity that inspired Thomas Jefferson, our third President [1801-1809], author of the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, to write:

“It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read. …

“It is the innocence of His character, the purity and sublimity of His Moral precepts, the eloquence of His inculcations, the beauty of the apologues in which He surveys them, that I admire. …

“I am a Christian, in the only sense He wished one to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to Himself every human excellence; and believing He never claimed any other.”

It is His humanity that inspired theologian, philosopher, musician, physician and medical missionary Albert Schweitzer, 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner, to dedicate his life to serving humanity, to devote his life to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné [now Gabon] in west central Africa and to inspire us with his philosophy, Reverence for Life, his Quest for the Historical Jesus, his Philosophy of Civilization, his Out of My Life and Thought, and his other writings, including his Nobel acceptance speech, The Problem with Peace, considered one of the best speeches ever given. As the young physician Schweitzer prepared for his African venture, he wrote more than 100 years ago, in words similar to those recently given by Pope Francis:

“Our culture divides people into two classes: civilized men, a title bestowed on the persons who do the classifying, and others, who have only the human form, who may perish or go to the dogs for all the ‘civilized men’ care. … If all this oppression and all this sin and shame are perpetrated under the eye of the German God, or the American God, or the British God, and our states do not feel obligated first to lay aside their claim to be “Christian’ – then the name of Jesus is blasphemed and made a mockery. …”

“The subject of all His preaching is love …. Jesus sets up the ethic of active love!”

That is the message of His humanity.

That is our Christmas Message.

______________________________
EXTRA CREDIT:

Albert Schweitzer [movie]:

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Albert Schweitzer: Out of My Life and Thought [Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1949]

Alf J. Mapp: The Faith of Our Fathers [Rome & Littlefield Publishers 2003]

Thomas Jefferson: The Jefferson Bible [Beacon Press 1989]

Thomas Jefferson: Jefferson Writings [The Library of America 1984]

Smithsonian: Most Important Mandela Moments [2013]

Jon Stewart: The War on Christmas [2013]

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19 Comments on "A Christmas Message: His ‘Gift of the Magi’"

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Thank you, Dick. Your keen observations of the degenerative divisiveness with which we are bombarded daily, topped off with an uplifting reminder and message to stay on the right path is just what I needed! You’ve hit the nail on the head once again!

That’s the spirit!

Dick, As always I feel blessed to receive anything you have written or commented on. I just returned from Honduras from a mission trip. To say the least it was a very humbling experience and forever has changed my life and the way I look at the world. The word “Christ” has been nearly taken out of everything because we don’t want to hurt any ones feelings. I won’t go into detail as I don’t want to get political. People have lost their way because they don’t have the time or desire to do for one another. I hope you… Read more »

Dick, great new blog.

One of the best

Very inspiring.

Thank you, Dick. Your message was a lovely, timely reminder of what it is all about. May we all take it to heart and live the message.

Have a beautiful, blessed Christmas.

Lynn

Terrific! Thank you.

Hal

Dick,

Thank you for such a wonderful message. It brings hope and inspiration so appropriate for the season. Have a great Holiday season and a wonderful Christmas.

Ricardo: You mentioned Limbaugh, who has vividly proven it’s possible to make millions of dollars by being a professional a–h—. He yells about the government, but could only have got started on his lucrative broadcast career by exploiting the government-allocated airwaves. He wouldn’t be in business otherwise. I’ve long lamented that the “fairness doctrine” was killed. Also, all of the fervent “Christians” who denounce Obamacare must never have encountered the story of the Good Samaritan. Of course it is there in ye Bible – but I guess they choose to read around it, paying no heed. As for favorite reading… Read more »

Thanks, Dick. Worth the read.

Jack

Dick-
Thanks for the inspiring message. It really helps to put the times into perspective. Nelson Mandela is a source of strength to all of us. Peace!

Here I am, in Guatemala, taking a rest before we go out again to minister at a church tonight. Reading your Christmas Message was very inspiring. Yes! Jesus is the very reason for all this celebration. His message was very clear: love your enemies, forgive those who hurt you. He was fully man, yet as the Scripture declares: “Emmanuel”, God with us. He came to give His life for us, because He loves us. It is because of Him that I am here, sharing with women as well as the youth, His love and power to heal broken hearts. It… Read more »
I agree. The message of the one born on the day we celebrate as Christmas is to love each other unconditionally. If we all lived our lives loving and helping the poor, the sick, and those less fortunate than ourselves, what a wonderful world we would have indeed. Your words from thirty years ago are as relevant and important today as they were on the day you wrote them. We all should strive to live the message of Christmas, which is to love, help, and cherish our fellow man, not only on the day of Jesus’s birth, but every day… Read more »

Inspiring message. Thanks Dick.

Your Christmas Message is lovely…just as pertinent today as it was when you first wrote it. Thanks for including the words of such exceptional human beings as Pope Francis, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Jefferson, and Jesus. Their words and lives are beacons of hope for all mankind. Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Another well written, all-involving, lesson learning take on this world. Jacobs for President!

Beautiful Christmas message, Dick. I must share this. I hope you don’t mind.
Merry Christmas to you.

A sad P.S. Nan passed away May 2, 2013. I miss her.

Pop,

I like the writing very much. I started the video and I will watch but will have to do that later.

I think you should post it!

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