By Art Martens
Christmas cards depicting the 3 Magi riding camels across a barren desert in the night still evoke a sense of magic and mystique in me. According to the Biblical account, they came from the East bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Likely born into nobility and affluence, they intended the gifts for a child they believed would one day become an important ruler. Certainly in the culture of their time, the gifts were deemed appropriate for presentation to a king.
They may have been surprised upon their arrival to learn that the infant boy they had come to honour was born in a stable. Even so, they bowed before him, apparently believing he was of royal lineage and would one day bring a message of peace and goodwill to all people. For the parents, the unexpected recognition given to their infant son must have filled them with astonishment and many questions.
Each December I feel impelled to again read this remarkable saga. Last week while pondering its meaning, I began thinking about the gifts given by the Magi. Contrasting that with the tradition of gift giving in our time, I wondered if our emphasis is misplaced. Most of us seem to have little understanding of what makes a gift significant and precious to the recipient.
I went to what I refer to as my “shelf of memories.” Among the items on the shelf are several treasured gifts given to me over the years. Although most have little financial value, each still elicits a sense of nostalgia.
Standing before the shelf for long moments, as I have done many times, I reflected on the meaning and memory represented by each item. Each gift was unanticipated.
One day our daughter Vivian, then age 8, rushed home from school, her eyes sparkling. Excitedly she handed me a card she had created. On the front a curious red fox is sitting on its haunches, gazing quizzically at the world. Inside she had printed, “Daddy, you play so much with us. You start to giggle and laugh. I love you. I hope you like the red fox. You’re like this red fox.”
The next day our son Jeremy, then age 6, watched my face with great anticipation as he handed me a card. An athlete holding a basket ball is saying, “you score high with me.” In large block letters he had printed, “I love you Daddy.”
About a dozen years ago I was asked to write and deliver the eulogy for my very good friend Terry. He had been successful in real estate, but not in relationships with women. Two ex-wives were in the audience, as well as his estranged present wife, plus his current girlfriend. One lawsuit was already pending and I didn’t want to be the object of another. I needed to apply my life experiences and whatever wisdom I could muster. Possibly the seriousness of the occasion enabled them to overlook any failings on my part, even when I inadvertently attributed several children to the wrong woman. A week later the girlfriend came to our home and presented me with Terry’s very expensive watch. “Terry had a high regard for time,” she said. “ He sometimes said a good friendship is timeless. He would have wanted you to have this watch.”
Also on the shelf is a card showing a magnificent eagle on a limb. The caption reads, “Always an eagle.” It was from Gwen, then a fellow Toastmaster. I had sought to encourage her in public speaking. In the card she had written, “I really appreciate all that you are and do.” Affirming messages don’t come to me often enough to be cavalier about them. I accepted this one gladly.
Stepping away from the shelf, I concluded that gifts tend to be most special when they involve an investment of time, effort, and thoughtfulness. Often they recognize the recipient’s contribution, positive example, service to family or community. Their intrinsic worth. They develop connections and create memories we cling to. The best ones bring a spark of excitement and joy.
The Magi travelled many days across possibly perilous terrain. They honoured the child with gifts fit for a king. Even more important, they bowed before him, an indication they believed him worthy of their reverence and worship. It was the ultimate special gift.
Source:: Living Significantly