One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy.” It’s a popular song, sung by several different artists. But I think we often miss its meaning.
It’s a simple song, about a little boy who goes to see Baby Jesus.
Come, they [the magi] 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
Fast forward, and the young boy approaches Baby Jesus and admits he has no gift. After all, what do you bring to a King?
But, he says, he has a drum. He asks if he can play for the King. Mary nods; yes, he can play for her son. He plays his drum, and he plays his absolute best.
And Jesus smiles.
You won’t find the little drummer boy in the scripture; he isn’t part of the biblical narrative of Jesus’ birth. But when I hear this song, I picture a little boy with a silly grin and a toy drum. Maybe a little boy who can’t really play the drums, but likes to think he can. A little boy with childlike faith—who has no doubt that this baby he is visiting is truly a King.
The magi were bringing expensive gifts that he would never be able to afford, so he offered what he could: a song.
Jesus didn’t need that song. But the little boy offered it with humility and his whole heart. And Jesus smiled.
I think, in many ways, we often feel like that little drummer boy. What do we offer to a King? I’m not the richest or the most talented. I often feel like whatever I offer is good enough.
The song’s message reminds me of the story in Luke, where a poor widow came and offered one penny, after the rich gave offerings of large sums. Jesus proclaimed that she gave more because she gave her all.
In the same way, Jesus doesn’t need the gifts we bring Him. But when those gifts are given with humility and our whole heart—like the little drummer boy and the widow in Luke—He’s pleased with us. He smiles at us.