Those who follow me on social media know I prefer the old church hymns to modern “praise” music. You know the kind of hymns: those you’d find in the dusty hymnals in your grandmother’s church as a kid. And that holds especially true for the advent and Christmas seasons… with one exception.
That exception is a tune written in 1941 by Katherine Kennicott Davis that she called the “Carol of the Drum.” It is more popularly known as “The Little Drummer Boy.”
It might not be as musically inspiring as the orchestral versions of “Joy to the World” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” both of which I love. It might not compete emotionally with “Silent Night.” I have heard people dismiss “The Little Drummer Boy” because of its sentimentality, its fictional narrative, and general lack of sophistication.
Frankly, it is that lack of sophistication that draws me in. It is a simple reminder of what we are celebrating in Christmas, and why.
Let’s face it: Christmas has been made into a pretty safe secular holiday. It demands nothing but good cheer, eggnog, and the dying remains of a tree in your living room.
Look too closely at it, though, and it makes less secular sense. We all play amateur electrician and haphazardly string lights around the exterior of our homes. We rack up heavy credit card debt to buy things our loved ones probably don’t need. And we top it off with fictional imagery tied up, nonsensically, with the northernmost reaches of the earth. Snowmen? Sleigh rides? Jolly elves? Seriously?
Of course, Christmas is not even really about a baby in a manger, but rather the Man that baby grew up to be. “The Little Drummer Boy” reminds us of the moment when the Godhead put on Manhood to begin walking His way to Calvary as the only possible propitiation for our sins.
The Little Drummer Boy reminds us precisely what we bring to the table. We have “no gift to bring” that is “fit to give a King.” There is no amount of gold, frankincense, or myrrh that could impress the Creator of the universe. There is no music in this world that can compare to the chorus of angels in heaven.
What we can do is come helplessly and hopefully to Him, acknowledging even – at our best – we are like a child banging on a drum.
On Christmas, we look forward to the day when we stand before Him in glory and He smiles at us.
“Rum pum pum pum!”