“The Little Drummer Boy” (originally known as “Carol of the Drum”) is a popular Christmas carol written by the American classical music composer Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. First recorded in 1951 by the Trapp Family Singers, the song was popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale; the Simeone version was re-released successfully for several years and the song has been recorded many times since. In the lyrics, the singer describes how, as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the Nativity of Jesus. Without a gift for the Infant Christ, the little drummer boy played his drum with Jesus’ mother, Mary’s favor; saying, “I played my best for him” and “He smiled at me.”
The Drummer Boy
The boy had been orphaned at an early age. He begged for a living before coming upon a field where a battle had been fought. It made him sick to his stomach as he witnessed the carnage and as he thought of the children would be orphaned while there fathers laid dead on the battle field. Then he noticed a boy of his own age who had also died. Beside him laid the drum that had belonged to the boy. He picked it up and thereafter led a life of service that gave him a purpose, as opposed to being a beggar.
He dreamed someday of playing his drum for a mighty general or a king. But it only added to his bitterness and disdain for life. He learned the worst habits of life being around men who had little to lose. They gained for themselves by exacting money from the people they were “protecting” and cared nothing for their welfare.
One night he noticed a bright star. As he walked to where he could see better he came across three rich men. Were they Kings he asked himself. Where was their escort of soldiers he thought. Just then the men saw him and immediately asked if he could come with them. He was still unsure as he had learned not to trust men, since he was around men of low morals.
But each one was cheerful and polite. He asked them where they were heading. They replied we are following a star where we’ll find a future King who will change the world. The boy was all in at this point. He discovered that they were all scholars and that’s why they needed no escort. But they told him that if they were going to visit a king they needed a drummer.
These men were like no one that he had known before. They seemed to be blessed that they had a youngster with them. And they knew so much, but still treated him as one of them. He looked at the life he had led and was surprised that there was a world completely unlike the one he knew before. He felt like he was in a dream; a dream he was afraid to lose.
They traveled to Jerusalem to consult the King and his prophets as to the exact location of the baby (to be King). King Herod said he wished to worship this baby King also and to come back to him after they had found him. The prophets in the King’s court told the scholars that the baby King was in Bethany.
Now the boy expressed his mistrust of King Herod’s attentions; after all – didn’t he know an immoral person when he met one. The scholars took note of his warning as they knew he new more about ordinary/evil men then they did.
When they came to the modest house that Joseph and Mary where living in, Mary was nursing the baby Jesus. The scholars waited at a respectful distance. Then they presented their gifts to Mary and Joseph. Each gift was appropriate for the life of Jesus. The baby was oblivious to the gifts and acted no different than any other baby would have.
The accommodations were meager at best. How could this be a King the boy wondered. The boy wondered how he could ever give a gift as valuable as the ones the scholars gave. The gifts were priceless for most people. But from his heart the boy sensed that he needed to play his drum for this baby king.
So the boy gave from his heart; he played for a King! And the baby turned His head. His eyes were wide open and clear. He smiled a genuine smile. The scholars recognized that valuable gifts were not as important as recognizing that they have seen a King who was aware of the boy’s presence. They now pondered what kind of King this baby might become. And they thought that maybe without a throne or a court He would humbly change the world.
The Drummer Boy had given the new King His first gift and His best gift. And the boy received the most priceless gift of his life – the smile of the King. The scholars also gave a gift to the boy as they asked him to come with them and to be a scholar also.
In this season of giving, what have we reserved for “our King”? Our gifts to Him need to be from the Holy Spirit in our heart. For friends and family our gifts are often out of obligation and reflect the values we wish to pass on. But are there gifts we can give to people that literally touch their hearts and put a smile on Jesus’ face?
The story I made up has a lot to do with relationships. Is this not an appropriate season for forgiveness; for recommitting and learning to love the people we’ve been estranged from? Isn’t this a good time to bless others with little to give but would be grateful as the Drummer Boy was for receiving the blessings of friendships from strangers and knowing they found the King of Kings. The blessings in our lives can be shared and create the best blessing in this life for people who were outside of Christ.
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