Calvin Miller is a professor in preaching and pastoral ministry at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. He previously served as pastor of Westside Baptist Church, Omaha, Nebraska. He is the author of more than 40 books and numerous articles on religion and preaching. His newest nonfiction book is called The Christ of Christmas: Readings for Advent.
What was Christmas like in your home growing up?
The Great Depression was over in most of the United States in 1931, but in Oklahoma it lasted until 1936, when I was born. So we were poor. One of the greatest attributes of my mother is that we never guessed we were poor.
I can remember at every Christmas, without fail, Mama read us a little book that she'd bought at a drugstore in Indian territory. It was A Christmas Carol. When she'd read it, she created such empathy as she read that story that we always felt sorry for the Cratchetts because they didn't have anything but a goose. We never even had a goose. That's a tribute to a great set of parents who created a sense of abundance at this time of year.
As you grew up, what Christmas traditions did you try to establish?
I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, in 1966, to begin a church. It was in a pocket of the country that's fairly non-evangelical. So I began by saying, "What are all the Lutherans and Catholics doing in Omaha? How do they do it?"
I've always believed that if you're starting a church, your neighborhood should to some degree determine the kind of church you start. Your programs should meet local needs. So I started studying Lutheran and Catholic catechisms.
Particularly at Christmas, I began to feel like they really had something going right at Advent. My children were little at the time, so we started ...