Things I Love: Childhood Christmas Memories, Especially This One




“The Gift of Music”

(From my Top 10 Childhood Christmas Memories Collection)

I cannot recall anything I said or did that would cause my parents to think I wanted a Magnus electric chord organ.

Yet there it was, next to the Christmas tree, fully assembled, with my name on the tag. Brand new and with a bench.

All mine.

I didn’t know the first thing about playing a keyboard. I had an ear for music, like my other siblings. But none of us had any training except for what was offered at school.

Did a teacher mention something to my parents? There were pianos in classrooms back when I went to school. Maybe I had hopped up and tried to play the instrument, and a teacher caught something in my eye that she recognized.

It’s a mystery and a wonder. My parents didn’t have money to buy a luxury like that. But somehow it came to be: a musical instrument that wasn’t borrowed, that I wouldn’t have to give back at the end of the school year.

Included with the organ were two songbooks and instructions on how to use my left hand to push the chord buttons and my right hand to pick out the notes. Before long, I was playing songs and feeling proud.

Image from

Magnus ELECTRIC Chord Organ, the gift that changed everything.IMAGE FROM DBECONLINE.COM


I loved that organ. I would walk into the house after school, sit on the padded bench, and play. If Mom was there, she would listen, smile, and encourage.

I was seven or eight years old when I received it. And with it I discovered that I could make music. I wasn’t just listening or singing along. I was making it. With my hands I was able to bring forth sounds that evoked … something. I couldn’t put words to it then.

I’ll never forget this: It was late afternoon and I was alone. The sun was setting and its rays streamed through the living room windows. I sat with my back to the windows, and I could see the beauty of the sunset against the wall. I began to play the song that had become my favorite.

And then, as the sun gave up the day and the colors changed the room, as the loveliness of the piece filled the room, a child’s heart for music came into being.

I began to cry.

I played the song over and over, until the sun disappeared.

I don’t recall how long after Christmas this occurred. But I do know it was then that music became my life. I felt it, like a seed taking root and clinging to the soil.

And the title of the song that touched me so? The “Largo Movement” of Antonín Dvořák’s New World SymphonyYou can listen to it here. Every time I hear it, I remember that late afternoon as God’s call to me, saying, “Take. Here’s the gift of music.”

I took that call and my talent flourished. I took that talent and let it become my god. Unfortunately, I took and took for over 30 years before I realized that I was given the gift to show off God, not myself.

As I pursued a music career, I didn’t let Him get in the way. I was free to make selfish choices and mistakes that affect my life to this day.

But there came a time when that seed He planted all those years ago finally made it through the weeds. I learned that being a musician without knowing the One who created music becomes an empty pursuit and a burden to bear.

I love being a musician, a writer, and all the things that I am. But I love even more the One who created me to do these things.

Once again I’ll be singing O Holy Night, one of my favorite Christmas hymns, as a soloist during my church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service. Music can still bring me to tears, as this hymn does — especially these two lines:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

There is the Gift.

Merry Christmas!


Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

6 Comments Write a comment

  1. Very moving post. I hope your music is still alive inside of you and that you are sharing your gift with the world in the way God wants you too. Merry Christmas!


    • Yes, Sharon, that gift of music is alive, and I’m using it in many ways. I wish I could describe for you how it felt to have the burden of “performance” lifted from my life. Now I sing out of joy and gratitude. Have a wonderful Christmas!


  2. Darla, the images are so very real in this post. Loving music and learning that you can create music is a strong and lasting step in personal growth.
    I was 14 when my piano teacher gave me a modified, easier arrangement of The Largo Movement from NEW WORLD SYMPHONY. The choir leader at our church taught us words from “Going Home” with the music, and his wife played the flute.
    It still makes me cry to hear the music and remember the way it filled my heart when we all sang “Going Home.” Music is such a gift.


    • Oh, I’m glad Largo has a place in your childhood memories too. Earlier this year I heard “Goin’ Home” set to Largo for the first time, at a beloved church member’s memorial service. It is a perfect “going home” selection, and I wondered why I had never heard it played before at a service. Her son played the piano and we read the words as he played. I spoke with him about it after the service, it was so beautiful.


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