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  • Writer's pictureShaun Nestor

The Little Drummer Boy

Come They Told Me series background

Growing up, my family attended a Catholic parish in Delaware County. Each year, we would do a Christmas pageant-type event where each of the classes in the Catholic school would prepare a Christmas carol/song to perform. For back-to-back years, in Kindergarten and First Grade, my class’s songs were the same: “The Little Drummer Boy.” Makes sense, right? Having the little kids be the “little drummer boy” as they struggle to keep time with the frequent “pa-rum-pum-pum-pums” on their small drums.

At that moment, my classmates and I were the “little drummer kids.” Reflecting on the song today, I’ve begun to notice that the “Little Drummer Boy” is an allegory. He represents something. There are no mentions in Scripture of a tiny kid with a drum barging in on the stable to see the newborn King. Was that drummer boy real? We can only imagine, but that’s not the purpose of the song.

You see, the little drummer boy represents… us. Each and every one of us. He is the representation of us as a part of the biblical story of the birth of our Savior. So, as we look at the song, imagine yourself as the little drummer boy.

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

The first verse of the song tells of when you were first told of the coming King. “Come and see! The King of Kings has just been born, and we are going to see him.” Here you are, going about your life, and while you may not have had an interaction with the heavenly host like the shepherds or magi, someone told you nonetheless. So, whether you believed right away or even if what was said to you just barely piqued your interest, you went to see.

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?

In the second verse, you arrive at the scene. From the little bits of information we were given beforehand, you probably expected to see the King born in a royal palace, filled with all the regalia and royal festivities one would expect when royalty is born into the world.

Instead, you find a little child, much like yourself. Not born into this perfect palace with royal attendants, but rather born into the world in a very human way. Two young parents, well in over their heads, with no place to go, making it work in a stable. Some people brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, really expensive gifts, as a tribute to this King. You don’t have that, you’re just a kid! All you have is that little drum that you go around and play. You don’t even think you’re that good at it. But, it’s what you can bring, so you turn to Mary and ask her if you can play for the little boy.

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

And so you played for Him. Whatever your best was, whether you were the best drummer in all of Judea or if you just started taking lessons. You played your best, and little baby Jesus smiled at you.

Imagine that, knowing all that Jesus has done for us since His birth. How He lived the perfect life, was persecuted, beaten, and hung on a cross unjustly. How He paid the price for all of our sins. Then, three days later, He rose from the dead, proving for all time that He had defeated death. He made a way for us to join Him and the heavenly host in the Father’s house.

And what does He ask of us in exchange? He asks that we bring ourselves, our whole selves. He doesn’t require a fancy offering or perfection, He was the fancy offering and perfection. He just wants us to bring whatever we have to Him, even if it’s our best effort playing drums.

And when we do, He smiles at us. 

…the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 7:14 NLT

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