“Little baby/ I am a poor boy too/ I have no gift to bring/ That’s fit to give the King/ Shall I play for you?…” –The Little Drummer Boy
I have had so much swirling around my mind this Christmas season. I really wish I had been more disciplined and written more, but so life goes.
Each time I hear the Little Drummer Boy on the radio I am deeply touched by the song. I know that it can be annoying, with all the “pum-puming,” and is a staple of Christmas pageants, so the song is nothing novel or especially noteworthy. However, each time I hear it I get chills as the final verse starts. The image of wanting to honor God, with nothing to give but your talent and passion, is inspiring.
This year I have worked less and earned less than in years past. I found as I started my shopping for my family that I couldn’t afford to buy much for them. I’m not quite so worried about the amount of money that I can spend as I am that I feel limited. I want to get them more. I want to give them more. I see things all around that remind me of them or that they would enjoy and I want to be able to give them. I know that they are not expecting more or asking for more, but I like giving more. I like letting them know that they are far away but on my mind. I know that my words can do that, but presents seem to speak a little louder.
The image of giving in the song is so powerful. Honoring Christ is all that matters. With no wealth to spare, his ability to drum is all the boy can bring to a child much like him. I was deeply moved the other day and listened to this song. It was such a humble request: Shall I play for him? He asked permission to give the baby something. I know this isn’t a true story, but an image of the scene was so strong in my mind. New parents, tired and scared and excited and probably overwhelmed, are approached by strangers bearing gifts to their child. Now, with baby showers, this is so common, but I wonder if it was at that time. People come to worship your new little baby, including a dirty, poor little boy. I imagine Mary indulging him, not really wanting the drum played, but letting him do it anyway.
The emotion of the simple song always strikes me. The boy plays his “best” for the baby. It is such a childlike thing to say, so pure and innocent. I realize that this is all that is asked of us. We wonder what it is to bring glory to God. We ask what we can do for others, how we can give and follow Christ. We can play our drums. We can take the little things that we have, the gifts we have been given, talents we possess and passions we hold, and give them. We can give them the best that we can. We can offer what we have and are now, not what we earn or will be or make happen.
That’s the essence of Christmas. God gave Himself. He gave His love, His grace, His simple presence. That’s what we celebrate. It’s so simple. We complicate the holiday so much, make it so busy and hard. It’s as simple as asking, “Can I be me for someone? Can I give what I’ve got here and now?”
In the end, what the boy brings is enough. It is powerful and celebratory and glorifies the baby. God smiles at him. I can’t imagine what that feeling would be. God smiles at him for what he has brought, for being himself. Being himself brings God glory and pleases Him. Being himself is enough.
“Give what you have to somebody. It may be better than you think.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow