Why I love “The Little Drummer Boy”


Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum

A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum…

My love of this little Christmas song dates back a long way. Despite the wonderful and beautiful lyrics of other Christmas classics, this song for me speaks directly to my heart because it is so simple. It captures, for me, why we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, and that the grandeur of a gift is not found in its earthly value, but is found in its eternal worth. It is not only my favorite Christmas song, it is my favorite song of all time.

I think my love affair with this simple song came when I was away attending school. The last Sunday before the Christmas break, two of the students played a special musical number. I remember sitting in the pews and listening to their musical rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy”. She on the violin, he on the organ. No words were sung, just the notes floating on air. I was moved by it. I do not remember their names. I am sure time has erased this musical selection from their minds. But it lingers in my soul to this day. I guess you never know when you will touch the soul of someone. I am sure they don’t know how moved I was that Sunday afternoon. I never even thanked them.

I found myself in Argentina the next Christmas as a full-time missionary. I was thousands of miles from home. We were visiting with a poor sister and her two children on Christmas day. As we sat together in her metal shack, she smiled and asked me if we could sing some Christmas songs. I said, “Yes, my favorite is “The Little Drummer Boy”. She smiled and clapped her hands together. Squealing with delight, she said, “I have that song on a record!” She got up and went to a small shelf and pulled out a dusty scratched up 45 record. She handed me the record and then motioned to her son to run a cord out to the street where a common line was available for electricity. He returned and she plugged the record player into the cord and with great pride lifted the arm of her record player onto the 45. And there I sat. Listening to a scratchy rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.” To my surprise the performer was singing in English. I don’t remember who sang it. I didn’t really care. I felt my eyes moisten when it came to the refrain:

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.

I guess I felt like that little drummer boy who was giving all he had. For a moment, the boy and I became one. After returning from Argentina, I spent my third straight Christmas away from home. The details as to why are not important. However, I recall that on Christmas day of that year I found myself all alone in the downstairs apartment of my sister in Provo, Utah. I remember looking at the walls and feeling so unloved and miserable. I saw the record player and searched through the records. There it was on a “Greatest Hits” Christmas album. I put it on repeat, sat back and listened and listened and listened. I don’t know how many times I played it. I just know I cried my eyes out.

And so, at this time of year, every year, I rejoice when I hear that familiar opening. It is the sound of the drums, announcing the return of memories past. Memories that remind me of time long since gone and of the singleness of life. Of the beauty of service and the loneliness of the heart. My favorite Christmas decoration is a music box, given to me by one of my sisters many years ago. The statue of the “Little Drummer Boy” playing his drum sits atop. On the bottom of the box is a simple hand written note that says, “Love, Diane”. I wind it up every Christmas and hear its sweet melody. When I am alone it will always bring a tear to my eyes. Tears of love, tears of thankfulness to the Lord for all the blessing that I have. When I think of the “Drummer Boy” I think, maybe, maybe my gift will be good enough for the King. Maybe, someday He will smile at me.



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