The Little Drummer Boy

A few things to reorganize or put away in the right place (instead of wherever they happen to fit), some cleaning, and perhaps a little painting and updating. That’s it—that’s all that’s left for me to feel ‘all settled!’

I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks. I occupied myself with nothing other than setting up my home and hanging out with my guys. It is the first time in a long time that I have been able to relax and watch a movie with my husband or cuddle and play with my boys without the vague and guilty pressure that I really ought to be doing ‘that other thing’ (packing, studying, writing, etc.) It has been lovely.

One pleasant evening last week, my husband played some Christmas carols on his guitar. He and I and our seven year old son sang while our three-year-old listened contentedly on my lap. I have some favorite carols that I find particularly moving. What Child is This? is really beautiful. And I love O Holy Night (though I can’t sing it). But I’m a bit embarrassed to say that the song that almost always has me fighting back tears has a lot more fiction in it than Bible.

If you hadn’t guessed, its the song about The Little drummer boy. The lyrics even look goofy when you read them in print.

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.


OK, so the ox and lamb keeping time really doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, I have to ignore that line or make up other words for it in my head. How exactly did they go about keeping time anyway? Tail swishing? Head bobbing? All the mental images I come up with really detract from the overall merit of the song. Plus, there’s the problem of timing. If the drummer boy came along with the wise men (as is implied), Jesus would not still be in a manger in Bethlehem. If he was still in the manger, he would be far to young to respond with a smile…

That being said, the second and third verses do usually make my throat feel thick and my eyes sting a little. Perhaps I have a soft spot for songs about drummers because I married one. Does my subconscious cast a six year old version of my husband for the part of the drummer boy playing his heart out to the Lord? Or maybe my overactive imagination is just really engaged in the fictional story of a small boy with a drum. Another possibility is that a genius musical arrangement effectively manipulates my emotions.

Maybe.

What I find much more likely, however, is that something in my heart connects with the overall sentiment of the song. This time of year I am especially impressed with the thrilling wonder of God entering the world as a tiny, helpless baby. The eternal one—the creator and master of all—took on human flesh and lived among us. He did this so we could know him—see who he is. He grew to be a man of passion, strength, conviction, compassion, and kindness. He willingly surrendered himself to ridicule and then to a horrific death so we could keep knowing him better and deeper forever. He cancelled the debt of my sin and gave me the hope of heaven. He conquered death, rose from the grave, and ascended to glory, where he waits to receive me home.

So what does all this have to do with the little drummer boy? Well, what do I have to offer to such a God—to my King? I do not have extravagant wealth to offer for his work. I do not have exceptional talents or abilities, not the kind that glitter and shine for all to see. I am not eloquent or charismatic, regularly arousing interest in God simply because he is my God. It is hard not to compare and come up feeling inferior and insignificant when I notice what happens when others possess these qualities and offer them to God.

But the little drummer boy did something very small and practical—and made God smile.

It’s a matter of knowing what God cares about and offering him what I have. I just want to make God smile—and I can. I think that’s why this silly little song has the power to make me cry.

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One thought on “The Little Drummer Boy”

  1. I think you’re spot on. It does the same for me for similar reasons.
    I’m also drawn back to a particularly beautiful time in my life (late teens) when I first heard it, and the warm, loving community of friends among whom I heard it.

    I’m glad the guitar made it. Bet your youngest was pleased!

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