Without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols is The Little Drummer Boy. Originally titled Carol of the Drum, it was written in 1941 by Katherine Kennicott Davis. The song’s inspiration, a yet-to-be-identified traditional Czech carol, tells the story of how a young boy was invited by the Magi to come along with them to honor the newly born King with gifts.
Ever since I was a little boy, this song has captured my heart and my imagination. Every time I heard this classic, it was easy for me to put myself in the place of the little boy in the story—having nothing to give to the King except the song in my heart.
Even today, whenever I hear this song, my heart can’t help but beat along with “Rum-pa pum pum’s!” The words not only take me back to being that little boy again, but they also take me to a place of worship.
And that’s what this song is truly about: Worship. The Magi are going to honor the King with their gifts—they’re going to worship him.
“Come!” They told me…
Have you ever resisted an invitation to go worship with others because they seemed to have better gifts to offer than what you have? I know I have!
Now you don’t know this, but I’m the World’s Most Okay-est Guitarist. I’m also a less than okay singer as well. But I love music and have been drawn to it all my life. I have also been surrounded by much better guitar players than I am and much better singers than I’ll ever be.
Yet, it always amazes me when I am invited to join them, much like the Little Drummer Boy. I always think to myself, “You could have asked anyone other than me. Why me? Why do you want me there?”
The real question is, “Why wouldn’t they want you there?” If they’re true followers of Christ, then they should be extending the invitation of “Come!” to everyone.
“A newborn King to see…”
Jesus. He’s the King. As Christians, he’s the one that we invite the world to come to see, worship, and follow.
“Our finest gifts we bring….”
What is it that you have to bring to Jesus? What can you give him? Is it music? Is it art? Is it writing? Is it cooking? Is it acts of service?
Or perhaps it’s a spiritual gift? Like wisdom? Knowledge? Prophecy? Healing, etc.?
We all have gifts. And some of us may be more gifted in a particular gift than others. For instance: I’m more gifted in writing than I am in art. I can use words to paint you a picture of something mentally. Just don’t ask me actually to paint you one!
It’s vital to know our “gifting.” It helps us know what we can do to bless people. If I wanted to bless someone, I wouldn’t paint them a picture. I would write them a song or a poem. It’s not to say that I couldn’t paint them a picture, I could, but my best gifts involve writing. So those are the gifts I want to give.
Likewise, you may be stronger in one spiritual gift than another. The gift of wisdom that you’ve been given may be stronger than your gift of knowledge. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have the gift of knowledge. It just means that the gift of wisdom that you’ve been given is of a greater portion. Those are your best, strongest, and finest gifts you want to bring…
“…to lay before the King.”
Ephesians 6:7 says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” The finest gifts we bring to Jesus are not just gifts that can be used in the church. They’re gifts for the benefit of our neighbors as well. However, more often than not, we think of church and church only when it comes to using our gifts. I’m not saying, “Don’t use your gifts in the church,” what I’m saying is to broaden your scope and share those gifts. Lay them out like a blanket, covering lots of space, and share them far and wide.
Using our gifts in church is great, but what about giving gifts outside of the church—gifts to fulfill the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself?” Or to “Love your enemy,” as Jesus commanded? You could give your gifts to “Bless those that curse you and despitefully use you?” As Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
“So to honor Him when we come.”
When we use our gifts to honor God or “for the least of these,” we do so unto Christ. There’s no better way to honor him. In fact, that’s how I believe Christ wants us to honor him.
If you study Matthew 25:31-46, you will notice that if you do not do “for the least of these,” then you will not inherit eternal life. Am I saying that we are saved by works? God forbid! We are saved by grace through faith and not by works lest any may boast. But if I proclaim faith in Christ, and I proclaim to be a follower of his by faith, then my works better reflect that. If my works do not reflect that, then I am dishonoring the One whom I claim to follow.
That’s why in James 2, we read:
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works…. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. Our works reveal what is truly in our hearts. Our actions speak louder than our words. We honor Christ by loving our neighbor, loving our enemies, and by loving each other. If we have faith in Christ, then our works will reflect that. We honor him by doing the works that he wants us to do through the gifts he has given us to accomplish his purposes.
Jesus! The one whom we come to honor…
“I am a poor boy, too…”
The Magi came with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were all costly gifts. Of course, the Magi who brought these gifts probably could easily afford it. They may have had some level of wealth and comfort. It cost them not much to give. However, as mentioned before, for many of us, that’s not the case. Giving is a struggle, especially when we compare what we have to give to what others give.
“I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give our King…”
To this little drummer boy, he felt he could never give Jesus anything that would match what the Magi were giving Jesus.
We’re all guilty of doing the same thing. We look at what’s in our hands, and then we decide to hold on to it because it doesn’t compare to what others are giving. We think our best isn’t as good as someone else’s best.
Instead of holding on to our gifts or our talents (See Matthew 25:14-30 – The Parable of Talents), we should give them to Jesus—regardless of what we perceive their earthly worth to be. You see, for Christ, the honor is not in the earthly value of the gift itself. It’s in the value of the giving.
In Luke 21:1-4, we read about the widow with two mites:
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
While everyone else gave of their wealth, this poor lady gave of her poverty. Jesus, being God in the flesh, is honored by how she gave. Sure, others gave more, but the cost to them wasn’t as great as what it was to this widow.
So what does it cost you to give to Christ? Time? Money? Social standing? Embarrassment? Are you afraid of how others perceive you? Are you afraid of appearing a little foolish? Are you afraid that others are going to mock you and make fun of the gift you want to give to Christ—because it’s not as good or as great as theirs?
If it cost you time: God is honored.
If it cost you money: God is honored.
If it causes you to appear foolish: God is honored. After all, are we not called to be a “peculiar people?” Are we not supposed to be fools for Christ sake?
Don’t worry if men are not impressed by your gift. If Christ is honored and exalted, that’s all that matters.
In Galatians 1:10, the apostle Paul writes,
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul’s time, talents, gifts, and service were all used to please God and honor Christ, not man. Should we not follow his example?
“Shall I play for you on my drum?”
As Peter and John were walking into the temple to pray, they came across a man, lame from birth, begging for money. Seeing Peter and John, the man asked them for money. Peter said, “Look at us!” The man looked up at them, expecting to receive something. Peter goes on to say, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you…” (Acts 3:6).
What Peter had was the gift of healing, one of the gifts Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12. Peter didn’t have silver. Nor did he have gold. He didn’t have a gift that one would give a king. But what he did have, he gave—the gift of healing.
Now not everyone may have this gift. Neither does everyone have the gift of music, as David did in 1 Samuel 16:23. With his gift, David would play to soothe King Saul. But we all have something that we can give!
“Mary nodded…The ox and lamb kept time…”
Even though we don’t seek the approval of men, that doesn’t mean that people won’t approve of us at times. And just like the ox and lamb, others might join in to affirm us.
“I played my drum for Him…”
What’s your gift? What is it that you can do? Can you sing? Can you draw? Can you give your time, money, attention, or other resources? Perhaps God has given you the gift of healing? Signs? Wonders? Prophecy?
Sure, there may be people out there who may, technically, have a better gift than us, but in God’s kingdom, the least shall be greatest. Think about your gift and then ask yourself, how can I use my gift for Christ? Or, for my neighbor, co-worker, and even my enemy?
“I played my best for Him…”
Paul echoes Ephesians 6:7 when he writes in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
It’s essential, no matter how much of a gift we have, or how little of a gift we have, that we give our very best each and every time. Remember: Christ is honored not in the value of the gift itself, but in the value of the giving. Giving 100% is more valuable than giving just 10%.
What is giving the gift worth to you? Is it worth your absolute best? Because if it isn’t worth giving your absolute best, then Jesus will more than likely not be honored by it.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, the apostle Paul writes, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
I know when 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 is referenced, more often than not, it’s in regards to money. And I agree. To put these verses in context, Paul is talking specifically about giving money. But anytime you talk about giving by proxy, you’re talking about a gift. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, money is the gift being given. However, money is not the only gift there is to give.
No matter what gift we give, Paul makes one thing absolutely certain here: God loves a cheerful giver. And nothing honors God more than when we give cheerfully, no matter what the gift is!
“Then He smiled at me. Me and my drum.”
The thing that I love most about this song and story is that the Magi brought the kingly gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but none of these gifts made Jesus smile. The only gift that made Jesus smile was the one the poor, little drummer boy gave him. In the drummer boy’s eyes, what he had to give didn’t compare with the ones the Magi brought. Yet, in the eyes of Christ, this gift was the greatest because he had given all he had from his heart.
So do not lose heart and compare what you want to give to what others give. Give cheerfully. Give lovingly. Give with everything that’s within you, and I promise you that Jesus will be pleased and God will be honored.
My fervent prayer for you and your family is that you will be blessed this Advent season and have a very Merry Christmas.
Eric Johnson wears many hats! Husband, father, organic church planter, pastor, preacher, conference speaker, worship leader, songwriter, cancer survivor, and a semi-retired professional stand-up comedian, Eric has been really blessed over the years to have the following artists close the show for him: Hawk Nelson, 7eventh Time Down, The Josh Gilbert Band, and Shinebright. Eric makes his home in majestic mountains of Bristol, Tennessee, with his amazing wife, Crystal and their son, Kyle. Follow him at @EricIsGuitarted.