The Little Drummer Boy has been one of my favorite Christmas carols for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I think it was because I related to it. A little boy goes to see Jesus, and he gets to bang a drum at a baby. As a loud and obnoxious child, that thrilled me. As a loud and obnoxious adult, I enjoy the carol because of the truly mediocre harmonies I’ve written that I like to belt out to any version.

As I was driving home from work the other day, The Little Drummer Boy came on the radio. It was a lovely version. Bing Crosby’s, to be exact. I was singing along, ecstatic to be adding my voice to the likes of Bing’s. We crooned through the first verse, then something distracted me. Either something happened in traffic or I simply drifted off into the ether with my thoughts, as I so often do, but by the instrumental break after the first verse was over, I had stopped singing and was a captive audience. The second verse began:

Baby Jesu, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

 Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, On my drum?

And I was struck by something, some idea, some feeling, that I couldn’t identify before the third verse was upon me:

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

The song died down, but the overwhelming feeling remained. None of us have gifts fit to give a king. In fact, all we really have are the gifts we’ve been given. Whether it be the ability to play a drum, or to be a good listener, or to build houses, or to understand economics because, ew; we have all been given gifts that are unique to us. Gifts that are a part of us. And the beautiful meaning behind this song, as I realized it so clearly the other day, was that we bring joy to God when we use the gifts that we’ve been given.

It doesn’t matter if others sneer at you for your “weird” talent; God gave you that talent. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t understand your gift; God gave you that gift. And there are few things more spiritually satisfying than realizing your passion, using your gift, and using it to bring glory to God. The latter part is what The Little Drummer Boy is truly about. Humbling yourself before God, but rising to meet the expectations He has placed on you by gifting you with your skill set.

It doesn’t matter that you’re young, that you’re a poor boy too, that you’re uncivilized and unrehearsed. What matters is that you are you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. No one else has your particular gifts. And above all, you have been given the ultimate gift, the grace of God. And it is through this grace that you might begin to live the rich life that emerges through the powerful worship and thanksgiving that is born of using your gifts to bring glory to God.

Perhaps it is this striking sentiment that has endeared this song to me for so many years.

Or maybe it is the loud and obnoxious thing.

I Played my Best for Him,

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