Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Christmas Gift

John Ramsey Miller

I was twelve years old, it was 1962, and the struggle for civil rights was gathering speed and the social fabric and traditions of the old South were undergoing enormous strains and stresses, and the threat of violence was thick in the air. My father was the minister of the First Methodist Church in Starkville, Mississippi. I remember that September on a warm evening standing on our front porch with my father and my brothers and watching a torch-lit parade of citizens came into view and marched past the church and parsonage en route to the courthouse where they hanged an effigy of James Merideth, a young black man who was registering at Ole Miss. My father was a Christian and spoke each Sunday in a loud voice from his pulpit, and during the week in softer tones, but always steadily on message. His message was that regardless of skin tone, all of God’s children deserved to live their lives as equals. It seems odd now that we lived under an established and traditional social and economic system of apartheid.

It was three months later, and the weather had turned cold enough so that there was ice on the ground. I remember that my brother, Rush, and I were passengers in the family station wagon that afternoon. We stopped at a light on the highway and watched as a group of black children, who had been standing on the corner, hurried across the highway in front of the car. I remember there were six or seven children and that they were shivering in the wind, and that they wore tattered clothes and that one of the children was shoeless, and I remember horns honking behind us and how my father stared at the group until they were on the porch of a hovel, and had gone inside.

Later that afternoon, or that night, I remember one of the few loud arguments I ever heard my parents have. After a while my mother came into the den and told us that Christmas was going to be a slim one because our father had spend our family’s main Christmas funds on the needy. I think we were not happy about it at the time, but we had Christmas as a family and if it was slimmer than usual I can’t say because I do not remember and it matters not at all. The only thing I can say is that there was a family that lived in a house where the wind found its way through the cracks, but that the family who lived there had new coats and shoes, and enough to eat that Christmas because my father made sure of it. I don’t know what other gifts I got that Christmas, but I have never forgotten the one Christmas gift that my father gave me that day. But for him I might not have understood what Christmas is really about. The spirit of Christmas is in showing our love and appreciation to our family, our friends and to reach out to touch as many of the people we can who are in need of our love, our understanding, and our compassion.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


  1. You never cease to warm the heart. Merry Christmas, John.

  2. John, Thank you for sharing a story that needs to be told, not just at this season, but throughout the year. I must echo the previous comment: You've warmed my heart.

  3. Sounds like you had a very special dad. Merry Christmas.

  4. Wonderful story, John. Merry Christmas!

  5. Truly a beautiful story. Teaching kindness at an early age is one of a parent's greatest gifts. Merry Christmas, John. Congregation say Amen.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story, John. Real stories like these underline the true meaning of Christmas. Giving to others as God gave to us—sacrificially. Everyone at KZ—Enjoy a wonderful Christmas.

  7. Hey John, I like that story very much. So much, that if you don't mind, I am going to read it on my live morning Blogtalkradio show.

    The show is live from 2-4 EST (10-noon AK time). It can also be heard via podcast on iTunes or my website an hour or two after the live show ends. The reading will be part of my closing for the show in the last few minutes.

    You can listen via the player on my website or at Thanks for sharing.

  8. Great story John. I hope my children can learn the same lesson about the true nature of Christmas.

  9. Term papers

    I really admire this, I mean it really looks interesting! I'm actually glad to see all this stuff,Thanks for convey this.

    Wish You a Very Happy Mary Christmas.

    Term papers