The ‘little drummer boy’ song is one of my favorite songs of Christmas time for two reasons. One, when I was a little kid, my mother taught me the meaning of the song. Two, the meaning of the song has been so ingrained in me that every time I sing it, it evokes in me the tenderest sentiments. Yes, sentiments are good, even when they are directed at God, for He created in us the ability to be sentimental.
My mother explained the song to me as follows… “When Jesus was born, great kings came and brought great gifts to the new born King. Even the shepherds brought sheep and everyone had something to GIVE. A little boy like you was standing there watching Kings on camels and shepherds with sheep. He was so sad because he had NOTHING to gift the sweetest little infant he had ever seen. He did not know what he could do. Suddenly, he had an idea. He was a drummer. He told himself that he was going to play the drum for Mary’s little boy. He told himself that he was going to play his BEST for Him. He played the best for Him and the little boy Jesus smiled at him.” Christmas is about making God smile by giving Him the best we have. Fallen beings as we are, it is indeed a ‘strange mercy’ that God should smile at what we can give Him.
Back in those days when India was still under colonial occupation, British missionaries supposedly, were frequenting the Hindu holy places to understand the Hinduism in order to find the right context to preach the good news. In India, there is a story of a British missionary who met a Hindu lady at the banks of the holy river Ganges. The lady walked up to the river with two of her little sons, one was partially lame the other was healthy. After a while, she came back with only the partially lame son. The British missionary had asked her why the other son was missing. She replied that she had sacrificed him to the gods. Aghast, the British missionary supposedly asked, “If you had to sacrifice a son, why did you not sacrifice the partially lame one”. She apparently replied, “I do not know about your gods, but to our gods we always give our Best”. The British missionary was FLOORED.
A Christian friend posted in Face book, “Christmas is not about spending all our money on gifts to make others happy and then we are miserable and broke the day after Christmas. Christmas is about focusing on the One who requires us to PAY NOTHING to live a life of abundance all year long. CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT CHRIST”.
Yes, I agree that we don’t need to go financially broke during Christmas by giving gifts to people for whom gifts hardly add any value to life other than creating a momentary ‘feel good’ sensation. Christmas is NOT about how good it makes us feel, it is about Christ. It is about doing things that make Him smile. But, I disagree in that we need to PAY NOTHING to make God smile. Christ is costly, for one, He requires of us a broken heart and a contrite spirit. God never comes cheap, He does come easy, but never cheap. I think one of the problems with contemporary Church is that it has made Christianity cheap and God cheaper. Historically, religion has always been a costly affair, followers of all religions have had to pay a heavy prize. Early Christians and Church fathers paid a heavy price. But the advent of post 21th century evangelical Christianity changed that, Christianity was made priceless in that it was made completely free. Martin Luther’s idea of ‘free provident grace’ has somehow mistakenly morphed into an idea of ‘free’ feel-good-God. It is in this context that C.S. Lewis said, “Catholicism is accused of resembling the pagan religions, but the problem with Protestantism is that it resembles no religion at all”.
Contemporary Christianity, especially during the Christmas season, has to make a ‘U-turn’ away from the ‘free’ feel-good-Christianity and ‘commercial’ spread-the-cheer-Christmas and return back to its roots of sacrificial, discerned and compassionate giving that pleases the Lord and makes Him smile. The ‘strange mercy’ of God is that even though everything that we have is already His, He makes it possible for us to give Him what is ours, by giving to the little ones around us.
The wise men expended their brilliance in seeking the King
The shepherds gifted the choicest sheep to the Prince of Peace
The little boy drummed his best for little Jesus
Even the reindeer rendered to St. Nicolas the services of his red nose
What about me? What have I to give?
To commemorate Godhead’s affirmation of human dignity
By the GIVING of the One for a broken and a lost,
Fully restoring true humanity back to humanity.
Fully restoring true humanity back to humanity.
What about me? What can I give? How can I make the Mediator smile?
Oh, the strange mercy of God, that restores me to fullness and light
That I may give to the broken and the lost, and make the Heavens smile,
Reflecting in me, the true humanity – the Image of the Giver of Givers.