Drumming in the Presence of the King
Pa rum pa pum pum. Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum. The “Little Drummer Boy” plays his drum for a baby King he was told to go see. This familiar Christmas song reminds me of the reason we celebrate. The King of Kings left his heavenly place, was born a baby, became a servant and the perfect and obedient sacrifice, all because of love.
But this year has been hard to love. Our family has experienced a cancelled athletic season, directly impacting my husband, a head coach. A furlough sent me home for weeks of complete unknown. A continually adjusted school schedule meant our children would receive eleven in-person instruction days for the entire semester. We have experienced countless other changes in our day-to-day lives.
For most of this year I have been tempted to throw my hands in the air as if to say, “just forget it!” Forget doing anything because it’s not how I had planned! Assurances are hidden and which steps to take are even harder to discern.
And in many ways, this Christmas season does not seem like the most wonderful time of the year.
Pa rum pa pum pum. Rum pa pum pum.
Come, they told me – a world upside down to see.
That has been the beat of my drum while I am drenched in weariness and tainted with bitterness, festering with an itch that just cannot seemed to be scratched. My motivation is weak, and my mind longs to stay in low gear, not giving more than just enough. I find myself asking the question, “So where do we go from here?”
However, after reflection over the last month or so, I have come to believe a better question to be asking is, “How do we honor the Lord today, in this moment?”
This question insists upon our attention because as parents we are the prime example for our children for how to live in this upside down world. And the answers might just be in this song. Although there is no scriptural basis that a little drummer boy was present at the birth of Jesus, the lyrics do point us to scripture with four noticeable ways to honor the Lord.
“Come they told me”
In the beginning of the song, the writer conveys that someone has told the drummer boy about Jesus, the King. And Scripture certainly conveys that we are to verbally tell others of the Lord (Matthew 28:18-20; Psalm 96:3). But we should never limit our Gospel witness to our words alone. The more I ponder this year, the more it becomes clear that our actions are invaluable – not only telling of Christ but loving like Christ. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Paul tells what that looks like. “Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]” (v 7). This is Christ’s love in action. We honor Christ when we tell others of him with love in action.
“A newborn King to see”
While scrolling social media several months ago, I was convicted by a post rebuking the reader for asking why God was silent while their Bible was closed. Like the little drummer boy, we have been told the Good News that our King has come! And like the little drummer boy, after hearing of the King, we must respond by seeking after the King!
How do we seek the Lord? Start with His Word. Reading the Bible is not just a good Sunday School answer, but God’s chosen way to reveal His loving character and plan to us. God speaks to us today through his Son who is “The Word” (Hebrews 1:2; John 1:1, 14). The scriptures are “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). And if we embrace them “for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:17), the believer will be equipped “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Seeking the Lord in Scripture is not another religious box to check, but the best place we can turn to seek our personal, loving, and intimate Father. We honor Christ when we seek after him alone.
“I have no gifts to bring…That’s fit to give our King”
Just as seeking the Lord alone can be a daily struggle, the song invites us into another challenge: confessing our spiritual poverty. The lyrics remind us we do not have any tangible gifts worthy for the King. Even when I practice consistent spiritual rhythms, it is still a constant struggle to live out a love “that does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5). No matter how long I have followed Christ, I continue to easily be puffed up, believing I have something worthy to lay at the feet of Jesus. (Because you know, I am a pretty good person with all the good Christian-y things in my life.) I love what Paul writes about this clash with our human nature in Romans 7:15; “For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate.”
We all want to believe we are fundamentally good. And yet that is in opposition to God because it is literally pride-filled, as if we could bring or do anything that compares to Christ. We are all in spiritual poverty and in need of grace, and not one of us can claim any goodness apart from God (Romans 3:9-12, 23). If we bear any fruit throughout our lives, it is a direct result of being connected to the vine, Jesus Christ (John 15:5). We honor Christ when we confess our need for his spiritual abundance, and it is with gratitude that we are even able to sing praises of his righteousness and goodness in our lives. While this daily humbling before God has long been a challenge, one of the graces in this past year has been the ever-present reminder of our spiritual poverty before our Almighty God.
“I played my drum for Him”
My favorite part of the song:
I played my drum for Him
I played my best for Him…
Now is this performance-driven or what?! Maybe. But it is also a response to being in the presence of a King. The little boy knew he had nothing worthy to offer the King, but he simply played his drum the best he could. And are not all gifts, whether tangible or spiritual, from God (James 1:17)? We honor him when we devote our gifts to glorify him and we do that earnestly. This is part of his spiritual abundance.
So whether we are experiencing scarcity or plenty, heartbreak or happiness, confusion or understanding – how we live matters. Though we bring nothing of worth to the throne of God, if today indeed is the day the Lord has made, then we are free to rejoice in His goodness (Psalm 118:24). This is not to make light of suffering or to pretend that this year has not been extremely difficult. Friend, what sustains me as a parent is the truth that we have a Father whose goodness will prevail because he continues to be faithful and sovereign in all circumstances.
So, we can keep drumming. Keep living a life worthy of the calling of Christ. Keep seeking after Christ alone. Keep giving your best to the Lord, not as a means to gain God’s favor, but striving towards heaven because God has given us his best gift – Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:13-14)!