Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Our Finest Gift To Bring
This all must sound so strange. You’re thinking: Really? Little Drummer Boy? No! That song is awful. All the pa rum pum pum pum. So annoying.
Let me explain. First, the lyrics (after the ellipses, please insert the pa rum pum pum pum if you’d like):
Come, they told me . . .
A newborn king to see . . .
Our finest gifts we bring . . .
To lay before the king. . .
So, to honor him . . .
When we come.
Little baby . . .
I am a poor boy too . . .
I have no gift to bring . . .
That’s fit to give a king . . .
Shall I play for you?
On my drum . . .
I play my drum for Him!
For to honor Him!
Mary nodded . . .
The ox and lamb kept time . . .
I played my drum for Him . . .
I played my best for Him . . .
Then He smiled at me . . .
Me and my drum.
The thing that gets me is the command right from the get-go: “Come, they told me.” A king has been born, come, let us go honor him by laying our finest gifts before him. This concept is hard to relate to. We don’t have kings. We don’t bring them gifts. We certainly don’t bring them our finest gifts. Criticism is our most given gift.
But, if this were the tradition, imagine the slight sickness that rose in the back of the drummer boy’s throat when he realizes he has no gift, let alone a fine gift, or a gift that is fit to give any king, let alone THE king. We can relate to this in a small way – we are invited to a dinner party, or to visit a friend, we have a busy day, and we forget to give proper attention to picking out a small gift of thanks for our host. So, either we show up with nothing but apology, or we get a gift that is far from fine and pass it along as if our host won’t know we bought it just minutes earlier at the closest convenience store.
Upon arriving before the king, the drummer boy has nothing to offer, so he asks (I imagine in a small, defeated voice) if he should play his drum. It is all he has to give. At this point the song really starts to gain some momentum and if you let yourself, you will start to feel the excitement as you imagine the drummer boy doing what he does best for an audience of one. Mary gives him the go-ahead, with a nod, the ox and lamb tap their feet, and he plays. (I think of these young men as I imagine the drumming).
My favorite part of the song is when Mary nods and the drummer boy begins to play. And, the lyrics are "I played my drum for Him! I played my best for Him!" It is as if as he gets going, he has a revelation that his only gift -- his drumming -- IS his finest gift, the only gift that was fit for his king. His soul soars with this realization. He not only plays, but plays his best. Then, the most amazing thing of all happens: the king smiles at him. The King smiles at him.
This makes me cry. Seriously. It makes me cry because it stirs something deep in my soul. I want to make the King smile. More than anything else, I think. So, I wonder what gift I would bring. I look around at the stuff that surrounds me and I would have the same sickening feeling as the poor drummer boy: I have no gift to bring that's fit to give a king. Nothing external to me could possibly suffice in light of the gift He is, the gift of reconciliation and forgiveness that He offers. If today someone said to me: "Come, our King is here, we must go lay before Him our finest gifts," what am I going to lay down?
We know that all God desires of us, to make us His children, is "a broken and contrite heart" (Psalm 51:17) but once we have given Him this (or, better said, each time we give Him this), we feel a longing too, to praise Him, to make Him smile. At least I do, and it is this longing that I feel exploding out of this overplayed, under-understood song. But, what also arises out of this song for me is that God has already given me the gift with which to make Him smile. For the drummer boy, it was his drumming. I'm sure you can think of people for whom you can immediately identify what the gift is. What is the gift or gifts God has planted in you to use to please Him? Your finest gift to bring that would cause your soul to soar and the King to smile?
Are you playing your drum for Him? Are you playing your best for Him?
Pa rum pum pum pum.