The sounds of Christmas permeate the airwaves during this delightful time of year with traditional carols being sung and played. Perhaps one of the most beloved carols is “The Little Drummer Boy.” In the lyrics, the singer relates how, as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the nativity of Jesus. Having no gift to offer the Christ-child, with the approval of Mary, the child’s mother, he played his drum, recalling, “I played my best for Him” and “He smiled at me.”
On Tuesday, 12 December 2017, Jeremy Nelson whose professional name is J.ournal, released a spoken word rendition of the timeless Christmas carol “The Little Drummer Boy” on his YouTube channel. In the video, we see him kneeling at the manger, and like the poor young boy depicted in the lyrics of the song, he too finds himself without a suitable gift to give to the newborn King to honor Him. Realizing that it is not the value of the gift that matters, but rather what he is able to give from his heart, he offers the gift of his poetry. He says, “I’m just a poor boy too. I only have these words. Shall I say them for you?” Just as she gave her approval to the little boy to play his drum, she nodded giving him permission to say his piece. “I said my best for Him. Poured my heart straight out of my chest for him. . . .I gave Him all that I could give Him.” Towards the end of the video we see him kneeling before the Savior. The Master embraces him, reassuring him by telling him, “Your words are enough. You are enough.” And then just before he turns to walk away into the snowy night, the poet recalls, “Then He smiled at me; me and my poetry.”
Originally known as “Carol of the Drum,” the song was written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941 as based on a traditional Czech carol. “Carol of the Drum” was first recorded in 1951 by the Austrian Trapp Family Singers, who brought the song to wider prominence when they recorded it for Decca Records in 1955, shortly before they retired: their version was credited solely to Davis and published by Belwin-Mills.
Although the story of the little drummer boy is not found in scriptures, this fictional character represents all of us. Before we invite others to come and see the newborn King, just as the magi did of old, we are the ones who feel completely inadequate. What shall we give the King? We have nothing but a “drum.” Shall we play that for Him? He says yes, it is enough, come and play your drum. And so, we play for Him. We play our best for Him. All the while, declaring that we are small – we are weak. Nevertheless, we give all that is within us to Him – our Lord, our Savior, our King. Then He smiles at us and our drum.