Drummer Boy

It is now March and my son Benjamin still begs me to play the “Rum-pum-pum-pum” song on our stereo.  Christmas has been packed up in boxes and put back in our closets.  Our tulips and daffodils are poking through the soil while the spring winds blow.  I would have expected him to move on to a new favorite song by now. What is it about the Little Drummer Boy that enthralls him, I wonder? 

 Maybe it’s just the music, the drums and the marching band beat.  Ben is all boy, and this particular song gives him ample opportunity to run around pounding things with drum sticks (or just his fists).  Or maybe it’s the children’s voices.  We have about four versions of this song on different Christmas CDs floating around the house, and on at least two of them, a choir of children sing the Drummer Boy song.

Is it possible, however, that something else in this song piques his interest?  At age two, does he hear the words and get the story?  I’m sure there are many versions of the story published as children’s books, but the one we have here at our house tells the story this way: a young boy is traveling with the wise men to Bethlehem, to see the newborn king.  His job is to take care of the camels.  His hobby is making drums and playing them.  When this traveling group arrives at the stable, the boy watches as the wise men present the baby and his family with expensive gifts.  Our drummer boy begins to feel uncomfortable and wishes he had something to give the baby king.  Then baby Jesus cries, and he won’t stop.  The boy looks at Mary and she seems to understand that he wants to play for baby Jesus… she nods to him.  He plays his drum and Jesus stops crying, actually smiles.  Then he leaves his drum, which he made himself, for the baby. This is his gift.

A couple of things stand out to me about this story.  First, and most obviously, the boy’s gift is humble.  It’s not valuable in the same way the wise men’s gold and frankinsense and myrrh are.  It was probably dirty from the trip and well-worn from being played.  It was earthy, made from skins and twine and wood. And it was given by a poor boy, employed as a camel care-taker.  He wasn’t grown, educated, successful or wealthy.

Secondly, this gift was two-fold. He did not simply give his music; he also gave his drum, made with his own hands. Though neither were of any material value, these gifts were “of him.”  He didn’t pick them up at a store or spend his savings to get something worthy of a baby king; instead, they grew out of the essence of who he was.  In one sense, he gave himself to Jesus. That was all he had.

The last thing that intrigues me about this story is that the boy’s music affects baby Jesus, actually changes him!  He’s crying, grumpy and upset; but this poor boy’s music makes him happy and brings him peace. Is there a lesson here, about our interactions with God?  Is it possible for us to actually make an impact on God’s heart… to bless Him in some way?  I am often in danger of viewing God as rather stoic and removed from the whims of emotion.  The Bible paints no such picture. 

I am sure my two-year-old son has not analyzed the story in this detail or on this abstract level… it’s simply not possible. I continue to ponder, however, what it is that draws him to this song.  In my pondering, maybe God will prompt me to think differently about what I give Him and how I give it… and why I am always so concerned about the worthiness of my gifts instead of the tender heart of my King.


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