“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”Psalm 103:1
There are many Christmas carols that I fondly remember singing at the top of my lungs throughout my childhood: “Joy to the World,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “The First Noel,” and of course, the classic “Jingle Bell Rock!” Many of these great carols continue to be a soundtrack of truth sung and played in my life. However, there’s one Christmas carol I sang growing up that I really never understood. Yes, I’d sing it proudly, especially when we arrived at the “pa rum pumpumpums,” but I never fully grasped or, frankly, paid any attention to the meaning behind the lyrics of the song. Nonetheless, this beloved carol, “The Little Drummer Boy,” written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941, cuts straight to the heart of the true meaning of worship.
The song begins as the little drummer boy tells of the Magi (wise men) recruiting him to join their journey to see baby Jesus:
Come, they [the Magi] told me
A newborn King to see
Our finest gifts to bring
To lay before the King
So to honor Him
When we come.
It’s not surprising that Magi would arrive to see newborn King Jesus with their finest treasures, but can a boy with only his drum show up at the welcoming party empty-handed? It seems absurd, right? This was the beginning of the greatest story ever told. Jesus welcomes all!
The second verse of the carol continues the scene at the foot of the manger as the little drummer boy narrates:
I am a poor boy, too.
I have no gift to bring
that’s fit to give our King.
Shall I play for you
on my drum?
Located in a smelly stable, lying in a feeding trough, and wrapped in old garments wasn’t the typical entrance of a king into the world. Seeing King Jesus for the first time, the little drummer boy relates instantly to Him, gaining the confidence to offer to bless Jesus by playing his only possession—a rhythm on his drum.
The final verse of the classic Christmas carol captures the moment when the little drummer boy plays for baby Jesus and shares of the newborn King’s response to his musical offering:
The ox and lamb kept time.
I played my best for Him.
Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum.
After gaining permission from Mary, the little drummer boy proceeded to play his musical offering to Jesus. The animals in the stable must have enjoyed it as they “kept time” with each beat of the drum. The little drummer boy didn’t have much to give, but he gave Jesus all that he had—the musical talent the Lord had in turn gifted him. He heartily gave his best to the King—the greatest gift one could bring. Baby Jesus responded with the wonderful sight of a wide, loving smile of approval and acceptance.
Between the lines of the thrilling “pa rum pumpumpums,” this song reminds us that God isn’t interested in our presents as much as He desires our presence. May this great Christmas carol be a reminder for us all to keep beating our drum for Christ—all that we are, all that we have. Are you playing for the King? No, not just any king—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Commit to worship Him with your life each and every day as you “play your best for Him.”
Dr. Tyler Brinson
Minister of Music & Worship
Dr. Brinson is passionate about leading and inspiring people to worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Tyler believes corporate worship ought to be a rehearsal for heaven—all voices and generations praising and worshipping Jesus together. He earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in Church Music from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Tyler and his wife Diana, who is originally from El Salvador, have been married since 2015 and have a beautiful baby girl.