The Songs of Christmas: Day 16
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The Little Drummer Boy
Growing up, I used to watch the Rankin Bass specials when they would come on television. You know the ones I’m talking about: Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Those were staples in our house and they definitely helped me ring in the holidays. But of the many that I watched there was one oddball: The Little Drummer Boy.
Since watching that show so many years ago, I’ve grown incredibly fond of the song. Interestingly enough, with all the holiday tunes about Jesus, Mary, the wise men and all of the other Christmas story players, I have never read anywhere in scripture about a guy bringing his drum to the manger and playing for Jesus. Besides the fact that a kid playing a drum would probably wake the already fussy Jesus, I wondered why a song like that would have a place in Christmas carol lore. Sure it’s got Jesus, Mary, and the Oxenlam in the rhythm section (seriously, for the longest time I thought that was another person), but couldn’t the world have done without a song about a musician and his encounter with a baby?
It wasn’t until I read one of the lyrics that something clicked:
I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a King
I played my drum for Him, I played my best for him.
As I’ve experienced Christmas more and more, I’ve seen how it can bring out the best in people. The holidays can be a rough time with the stress of family, loneliness, gift giving pressure, the cold weather (seriously, this has an effect). But I see in the quirkiness of cheesy holiday movies, the guys ringing bells at my local Wal-Mart, and in little pockets of my life, that this time of year people want to be a little nicer, a little better.
When I think about that song and those lyrics in particular it reminds me that the grace that we are given by Jesus – the gift that we can’t give apart from him – allows us to become righteous. It extends the idea of Christmas beyond being a little nicer, being a little better. Because of Jesus, how he’s made us, we can be the best. For Him.
Today’s story is by Patrick Hicks, and the arrangement of this song by Jars of Clay has become his favorite. Ironically, there are no actual drums in this version.