Chronicles in Ordinary Time 86: Gifts

coverThe Gift of the Magi Kindle Edition
by O. Henry (Author), Marty Jones (Illustrator)
UK Edition

“The Gift of the Magi” is an illustrated short story originally written by O. Henry; it tells the story of a young married couple named Jim and Della and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other when they have more love than money.
Featuring hand-drawn graphite images that have been digitally-manipulated, “The Gift of the Magi” has been 20 years in the making. The original project used acrylic paintings; and then the computer came along.

The story of an illustrator with more work to do for other people than time for himself to pursue a personal project…


This is always an awkward time of year for me, and is best represented by this image from A Charlie Brown Christmas:


I have a real problem with Christmas in the 21st Century. I felt the same about it in the latter part of the previous century, when dinosaurs ruled the earth…

I’m not one of those people who start decorating for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t participate in Black Friday, nor Cyber Monday. I consider the commercialization of Christmas to be an affront to the Creator of us all.

And I am aware of the hypocrisy of advertising my new book at the beginning of this particular post. It’s a Christmas story that may provide some enjoyment in someone’s life. I don’t expect it to be a ‘best-seller’—it’s simply the completion of one of my dreams. The Kindle version is about the cost of a cup of designer coffee from that coffee place that has gotten so much airplay on Facebook for their holiday practice.


Christmas is supposed to be about the Creator of the Universe deciding to enter time and space in the form of a human baby… Sort of sounds like science fiction. Earth is a flyspeck in the volume of the Universe—how arrogant it seems of us to believe that the Creator would spend time thinking about this world that prefers war to peace. A people who are destroying Creation simply because we can; where people whose heads are in a place where the sun doesn’t shine, people who say that the destruction of our planet has nothing to do with us.

Why would the Creator care?

Love. Compassion. Grace. Concepts that are hard to grasp.

For me the idea that makes sense is an image that came to me twenty or so years ago. If you pick up a rock from the garden, on the underside you will see a small world of wriggling, squiggly, crawly things.

When thinking about the nature of the Creator, the entire Universe is in some respects small—in the same way that my 2000sf house is small in my mind—I realize there is simply a difference of scale. The property below is much larger than I am; I’m half the size of the red dot. I designed our house for my parents, while I was in college.

I_Live_in_ForestI live in a forest.

To some of my neighbors’ regret, my forest is located in a suburban neighborhood of Portland, near houses where people mow their lawns and plant gardens and pull weeds…Things I refuse to do. I decided a long time ago that I did not want to invest the time that is my life in the domestication of foliage that grows without my aid. I’d rather use the time to make stories.

However, my parents had a totally different idea, and most of the trees and shrubs that surround our house were selected and planted by me. Because I hadn’t set aside the topsoil when the foundation was excavated, all of the soil around the house is clay. I had to dig individual ‘pots’ with filled with potting soil for each tree and bush.

I designed the house, drew the plans, secured the Building Permits, and built-by-hand most of the house. Most of the drywall was installed by subcontractors; and a plumber and an electrician installed most of the plumbing and wiring. The rest was done by me, and some friends who worked for me.

Every part of the house was at one time in my brain. In that sense, my house is ‘small’ to me.

The same concept occurs with the Creator of the Universe; the Universe is, in some sense small. To the Creator, what would ‘small’ look like? Small may include the blue marble rotating around our sun.

Back to the rock in the yard…

If I imagine that I cared about the squiggly things crawling around, and wanted to help them to understand the purpose of their lives, the only way I could do it would be to become one of those squiggly, crawly things. It seems to me that the best way to be accepted by those crawly things is to enter their lives as a ‘child’; my guess is that even a centipede has some hardwired knowledge that the next generation needs care, in order for the race to survive.

As difficult to believe as it is for me to think that I might become a bug, in order to relate to bugs, it would be several orders of magnitude more for the Creator of the Universe to become a human.

The Creator of the Universe became a squiggly, crawly thing that was given the name Jesus. He was born in a barn because his parents were refugees. Magi—wise men from the East—went to King Herod the Great and Nasty and asked directions to where the new King had been born. They had learned from their study of the Universe that a new King had been born, One who would save mankind from itself. After they’d left, King Herod the Great and Nasty ordered the death of all male children in Israel, aged two years or younger, in hopes of killing the new King. The Slaughter of the Innocents.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus, by this time, had sought asylum in Egypt; refugees in fear for the life of their child.

While traditions vary, “the East” is generally thought to be Persia; more commonly known today as the Islamic Republic of Iran…Isn’t it interesting how history keeps repeating in strange ways…Perhaps because we fail to learn.


I’m a fan of Doctor Who—I find my admiration for the show growing all the time. A Hero who does not rely on weapons to fight his battles; he instead uses a sonic screwdriver which works on nearly everything except wood…

A Christmas Special with Matt Smith’s “Doctor” tells of a tradition that the Winter Solstice is a time of congratulations for our having made it ‘half-way through the dark’. There is so much darkness in the world today. I would like to think we are half-way through. I fear that we aren’t.

Winter Solstice celebrations were preempted in the Middle Ages and turned to a celebration of the birth of Jesus, even though He was likely born in the Spring. And so ‘pagan’ Christmas Trees somehow enter the story of the miraculous birth. Tradition teaches that the practice of Christmas gift-giving is a tribute to Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, who was known for secretly giving gifts to the poor he served. When the subject of gift-giving came up when my children were young, I talked about Saint Nicholas rather than the guy with the red suit and the white beard. I don’t like the notion that Christmas in America is about gifts—the only thing that seems important to the American economy.


And then there are the gifts given by those Magi.

We give gifts as a sign of love. Sadly, we seem to think that love can be bought.

The Babe came to show us that Love cannot be bought.






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