Carol of the Drums
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.
Baby Jesu, 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 our King Pa rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum Rum pum pum pum
Shall I play for you! Pa rum 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
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.
John 12:46 – I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
… … …
The little drummer boy is the essence of what being a Christmas people is all about. Imagine being a young child of about twelve. One night you are suddenly dragged from your bed, hastily dressed and told to grab your drum. Your parents give you a quick hug before you are bundled into a cart which takes off to God-knows-where. In the morning, a slave hands you a bowl of soup, thin and tasteless. Too afraid to ask, the slave nonetheless sees the question in your eyes.
“You work for the Magi now” he says,” and they are going to see a new born king.”
Another questioning look.
“You can play the drums and they needed a new herald. The last one died of dysentery a month ago.”
“The Magi saw a star in the west and took off like there were Skittles at the end of the rainbow. Don’t ask me how they knew a new king had been born, but when they saw that star they were like a bunch of women with engagement announcement.” Filled with doubts you practice your drum day after day as the cart rattles on westward always towards that star.
When you reach Bethlehem you find yourself outside a crowded city. Due to a great multitude of people gathered for the census, the Magi have had to pitch their tent outside of town and, after a harrowing interview with the local despot, have spent that last three hours wandering around town looking for the exact place the star shines over. A king, huh? Auspicious start, really…
Then, in the darkest, dirtiest slums, there is one hovel (a barn according to some, lived in by both humans and animals regardless) illuminated by the rays of the star. A barn? Well, maybe the insides are all tricked out. The slave knocks on the door and you play a sharp drum roll to announce the presence of the Magi. As the doors open you are greeted with the sights, and smells, of stables. And at the center of it all is an old man and a young girl and on her breast is a bundle which you assume is the “prince.”
Now, most people if they were that drummer boy, and someone told them this humble scene was God’s palace and that little bundle was God’s Son, they would have burst into incredulous laughter. But the little drummer boy, we are told, doesn’t laugh. He suddenly understands, with all the naivete and intuition of a twelve-year-old, that this baby is the Messiah, the true Son of God, a real king. Unlike the “kings” then occupying the throne of Israel and the more distant emperor of Rome, this king was born of the people – a craftsman, shepherd and teacher.
In the darkness of the night, this little boy sees something which is unbelievable and yet he believes. As Christians today, we accept the humble beginnings of Jesus mostly without question, but the little drummer boy reminds us of the child-like wonder with which we should approach the birth of our Savior. We try so hard to cram miracles into our rational world view. Though the natural (rational) world is itself miraculous on its own terms, there is yet another layer of order around our natural, rational world. It is in this space which miracles occur. Faith is simple, even when our world view is not. The birth of Jesus was and is a miracle, not only for the extraordinary state of grace into which Jesus was born, but for the extraordinary grace it bestowed on all people who believe in it.
It is no coincidence that both Matthew and Luke describe many of the events around the birth of Jesus as happening at night. For the first century Jewish people it was night. They were occupied by a foreign power, the Romans, and the temple and kingship was ruled by those more interested in money and power than serving God. Jesus, his cradle marked by by a star, was literally and symbolically the light shining in the darkness. He was the bringer of the long awaited, desperately needed grace that would be the salvation of his people.
But the story of the little drummer boy reminds us of something more. The little drummer boy, looking at the extravagant gifts of the magi realizes that he has nothing to give the baby king. In child-like embarrassment he pleads “Baby Jesu, I am a poor boy too!” In desperation, he casts about for something to give the infant Jesus. He gives the best thing he can. “Shall I play for you?” he asks. With Mary’s blessing, he begins to play. As if recognizing the magnitude of the little drummer boy’s gift – of his beautiful, child-like belief – Jesus smiles his approval and acceptance of his gift.
We are reminded by the little drummer boy that God accepts all of our gifts, if we truly give of ourselves. Just as the little drummer boy plays his best for baby Jesu, if we give our best to the purpose of God, then God will smile on us. And like the little drummer boy we need not give money. Our talents are gifts, and when we use them to comfort, entertain, rescue, and succor others they reflect the glory of God and become an offering back to their source. Though the Wise men gave expensive gifts of the finest incense and gold, history records that Jesus smiled at the little drummer boy’s gift of music.
The little drummer boy is the prototypical Christian and reminds us that faith need not be complicated. He is that little child within all of us as we contemplate the great Mystery of life and faith and an example of the reverence and humility with which we should approach God and each other. Amen.