“The Little Drummer Boy” combines two of my favorite things: drums and newborns. I have some experience of them both. To the first, I’ve been a drummer since childhood, playing eight years in drumline, and even now, performing the occasional gig with my Dominican brothers. To the second, my family has provided foster care to infants since my freshman year in high school.
But for all my experience with drums and newborns, I’ve never thought to combine the two. Seeing a baby has yet to elicit a desire in me to get out my snare drum: “What a cute baby! Let me play you a drum solo!”
Yet this is just what happens in this carol. This drummer boy brings his drum to the manger and then plays a diddy or two for the Infant Christ—really? I imagine Joseph coming over and asking the drummer to quiet down. His wife and Child need some rest.
But this song flatly contradicts my reasoned imaginings. Not only does Mary give her approving nod to the drummer, but the newborn King even smiles at him. A smile for a solo, this beautiful exchange radiates the whole wonder of the song.
This exchange is possible not just for drummers either. The song summons us all: Come, they told me… But what are we to bring to Christ? What have we to offer God?
Let’s turn to three saints and soak in their wisdom.
First, St. Thomas Aquinas. When he discusses acts of sacrifice, he offers a deep truth: “The offering of a sacrifice is measured not by the value [of the thing sacrificed] but by its signification, for it is done in honor of the sovereign Ruler of the whole universe” (II-II, q.85, a.2, ad.2). In other words, all the small things of our daily life can be offered to Christ when we do so in honor of his divine majesty.
Second, to paraphrase Bl. Teresa of Calcutta: do small things with great love. When we offer things to God, we need not act like God’s employees, just wanting to get the job done. Rather, we offer our sacrifices with the love of sons and daughters to their Father, knowing that He first loved us.
Finally, St. Thérèse of Lisieux writes: “Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude” (Autobiography, MS B, emphasis hers). Perhaps sometimes “great love” is beyond us. Even then, we can still surrender to our Father: “Thy will be done.” And offer our gratitude: “Thank you for loving me. Thank you for sending us Jesus.”
Image: Nicolaes Maes, The Naughty Drummer Boy