Like many of you, I spend the week between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year struggling to find just the right gifts for my loved ones. Sure, I could purchase gift cards (and sometimes I do), but if I want my presents to be special, I have to take the time to really think about what would make the recipients happy. How can I find presents that express how much they mean to me?
Komi Can’t Communicate‘s Christmas episode (ep. 16) turns it up a notch, since, as the anime’s title suggests, Komi struggles with interpersonal communication, which makes it even more challenging for her friends to find a gift for her and vice versa. And yet, by the end of the Christmas Eve party at her house (they invite themselves over), they’ve given Komi exactly what it is she desires—and it’s not the physical gift they purchased. It’s something far more valuable, and something that lies at the very heart of Christmas.
But it starts with a physical gift. Komi goes shopping to find an item for the party’s gift exchange, and she brings her brother along for advice. Well, for advice and for his wallet.
Meanwhile, the rest of Komi’s friends go shopping together. I assume they’ve already prepared their individual gifts for the party because this mall trip is for a slightly different purpose than Komi’s excursion. The group is shopping for presents to give Komi for her birthday. You see, the Christmas get-together will double as a surprise party for Komi, whose birthday falls on the 25th.
When her classmates arrive at her house, Komi is indeed surprised to discover that they’re celebrating her birthday. They’ve pitched in together to purchase a big, stuffed cat that doubles as a body pillow.
Komi’s reaction is muted, and most of her classmates believe this indicates that she isn’t happy with the gift. Oblivious to her disorder, they don’t consider that “Komi can’t communicate.”
When Jesus received his “Christmas gifts,” belated as they were, he surely acted in a similar same way. After all, he was still a baby at the time and so couldn’t exactly communicate! He must have received the extravagant presents silently, or maybe even with loud, angry cries. I can imagine how the magi would have reacted if they were like Komi’s friends:
Did he not like the myrrh? But everyone likes myrrh!
I told you a baby wouldn’t want frankincense! It’s making him sneeze!
Don’t let him hold the gold—no no! Now you’ve done it. King Jesus put it in his mouth. Take it out before he chokes on it. Quickly!
All joking aside, just as with Komi’s friends, the magi must have put a lot of thought into what to bring Jesus. Were their presents worthy of the king? After all, no matter how extravagant the gift, it would never be enough. Christ came from Heaven where he had everything. How could gold compare to the stars and galaxy?
But even knowing the magnificence of this child king, the magi still brought the gifts. They still offered their best. They wanted to show Jesus that they valued him and knew him to be worthy, even if their gift couldn’t quite convey the sentiment.
In the anime, we’re somewhat privy to Komi’s thoughts and feelings, which are quite the opposite of what the others think them to be. It’s obvious that she loves her new stuffed animal. Why wouldn’t she? It’s cute and exactly up her alley (think of the cat ears that often spring up on Komi’s head).
But the gift also conveys something that isn’t physical, something that’s more meaningful than the gift itself, and something that is exactly what Komi desires. This is made clear later during the party.
After laughing and having snacks, the gang plays a game called “Who’s the King?” (appropriate, right?) in which the person drawing a specially-marked popsicle stick calls out a number and then orders the person holding that numbered stick to do something. When it’s Komi’s turn, her order is clear and goes right to the heart of the matter: “Keep being my friends.”
Komi was happy to have a new body pillow, but what she valued most was the fact that it was an expression of her classmates’ affection and friendship. This Christmas season, I really need that reminder while I’m busy shopping for the perfect present. Though physical gifts—like gold, frankincense, myrrh, and kitty cat body pillows—are nice, they’re not what’s most valuable. Christmas gifts are about a heart of love offered from the giver to the receiver. They’re about a heart of friendship.
If Jesus could have told the magi what their gifts meant to him, I think he would have said something similar. In fact, later on in life, he explained to his disciples what friendship really means:
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.– John 15:14-15
Christmas revolves around this concept. It’s a celebration of Christ coming to be our friend, for his purpose among us was completed through the cross, where he fully expressed that greater love he described, laying down his life for us. His friendship with us is a sharing of his heart, of his birthright, of his kingdom, and for that we worship him and seek to grow as friends to him in return.
Through the tinsel and the snow, the parties and the meals, the decorated trees and the search for the perfect gift to place beneath it, may we remember the heart of the holiday. Like with Komi’s friends, may we remember that Christmas is our friend’s birthday. May we ponder upon how he’s already given his gift so that all may believe. And may we celebrate his birth by giving him exactly what he wants, what the Creator of the Universe, who already owns everything, desires.
Let’s give him the gift of our friendship.
This post is part of an annual series entitled, “The 12 Days of Christmas Anime.” Join us from December 14th through the 25th, as each day we examine an episode of anime (or sometimes a movie, manga, or light novel!) set at Christmastime and see what it brings to mind about the holiday as celebrate the birth of Christ, who was born to set us free.
Komi Can’t Communicate can be streamed through Netflix. Christmas (and Komi’s birthday) arrives in episode 16.