God exercised no economy in purchasing our redemption.

This isn’t a Christmas story. There are no shepherds or angels or wise men in it. On second thought, though, there may be a wise woman. And while the story is not about the first Christmas, it has a great deal to do with the central theme of Christmas: God so loved that he gave.

The story concerns the woman who came to see Jesus when he was a guest in the house of a man named Simon. She was uninvited. We don’t know anything about her except that she came carrying precious ointment. As Mark tells it in his Gospel, the observers were extremely upset when she poured, it on Jesus’ head. “Why was the ointment wasted this way?” they complained. “It might have been sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor.”

Now, I have this thing about waste. To understand, you should know that I come from bona fide Pennsylvania German stock, from that particular branch of Pennsylvania Germans known as “the plain people.” From the time I was old enough to jingle coins in my pocket. I was taught that Ben Franklin’s adage—“a penny saved is a penny earned”—ranked second in importance only to the Ten Commandments. Further, my parents were married exactly one year before the stock market crash of 1929. The first decade of their life together corresponded with that bleak period in the American experience known as the Great Depression. Small wonder that my childhood included such rituals as saving string, and severe fiscal limits on spending for such things as candy and chewing gum.

It was impressed upon me that borrowing was an undesirable practice. Dad paid cash for every car he owned. He and Mother saved their money until the day they could buy a house of their own. It was an old house, ...

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