Love it or hate it, Christmas is coming. The streets and stores are decked with lights and decorations, carols are playing everywhere you go, and people keep referring to a fat, bearded man in a red suit. Over the next few weeks we’re going to look past Santa and elves and reindeer and look at another Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. We are going to take some time to have a look at some of the characters involved in that first Christmas and what they have to teach us. To start the series off we’re going to look at someone who is not be written about in the Bible, but in a lot of ways I feel captures the meaning and message of Christmas so beautifully. The Little Drummer Boy is one of my favourite Christmas fables, and it is a story that I, and hopefully you, can identify with in terms of how the little boy feels and responds at each stage of the story.
Picture yourself in the shoes of this young boy. Sitting outside your family’s tent happily playing on your precious drum, after spending a day working hard chasing animals or cleaning up after them in order to earn a brief period of play before night sets in. As you are sitting there playing and practicing beats and rhythms a massive camel train lumbers past, carrying men who appear to have wealth beyond your wildest dreams and whose camels are laden with scrolls and precious things. As you stare in awe, trying to take in this marvelous sight, they stop and look down at you, intrigued by your drumming. You worry they are going to tell you off or demand something of you, or maybe even take you away from your family as a slave. But instead one of the men climbs down from his camel and approaches you with a smile, inviting you to join them on their journey. These mystical men from a distant land want you to travel with them to meet a King, a King so important that they have traveled great distances from lands you’ve never heard of just to bring him their finest gifts. Surely they are joking, surely there is no way they would want a dirty, poor boy like you to join them? Yet the invitation stands, they want you to come and meet the King.
After traveling a great distance with these men, you finally arrive at the place where this great King is. Along the way they have told you about their teachings handed down through generations of a star which would appear to lead them explained to the King who would be above all kings. They explain to you that they have brought him the traditional offerings given to Kings and Gods of precious gold, sweet smelling frankincense, and the anointing oil myrrh. They tell you that they have come to worship and honour him. When you arrive at the place you feel confused, this humble stable could surely not be where you find such a great king. You look around for a castle or a palace or a great building, but there is none to be seen. The Magi climb down from their camels and humbly enter, bearing their precious gifts and laying them down before….. an infant. The great king you have come to see is still a baby. In that moment you realise, you do not have any gift to offer, you have nothing you can give to this infant king. You fear that you will be mocked or chastised or worse. As you see the wise men step back, you realise that all you have is your drum, so you offer to give the one thing you can: You offer to play your drum as best you can.
The mother of the child nods, so you play. You play the best you have ever played. You play with all your heart and soul, giving everything you have to play a beat and rhythm worthy of honouring a new born king. As you play you notice even the animals seem to be keeping time with you, the wise men watch in awe as you play and the child’s parents smile and encourage. Finally you realise that even the child, this infant king, is smiling at you, laughing and relishing in your play. Despite thinking that your gift was nothing special, you realise that the child, this baby Jesus, took great pleasure in what you brought him. You realise that your humble offering was just as valuable to him as the gold.
If you spend any time in or around churches or Christians over this Christmas time you are bound to hear something said along the lines that Jesus came to earth because he wants to have relationship with you. He loves you so much that he gave up Heaven to come to earth so that you can know him for eternity. A common response is “Why? What have I got or what I can I bring that is so important or valuable?” Do you know after spending pretty much all my life in the church and hearing this year after year I still ask that question at times? I look at others in the church who in my mind have greater, more amazing gifts to bring and I think “Why on earth would God want me? I can’t sing, I haven’t got an artistic bone in my body, I’m not a great speaker or writer, I am by nature an introvert so I’m not going to be great at drawing people in, and I make a lot of stupid decisions. Why would God want me?” And yet despite all that I know, deep down in my heart, that He does.
Time and again in the Bible it tells us that God made us (Psalm 139:13-16), that He loves us so much that nothing can get in the way (Romans 8:35-39) and that He wants all of us to come to relationship with Him (2 Peter 3:9). So while I might not feel my gifts are all that great, I know that God does because He is the one who made me who I am and He values a relationship with me so much He sent Jesus to earth. And this doesn’t just apply to me, it applies to you too. John 3:16 says that Jesus came so that all who believe can have eternal life, so as we make this journey towards Christmas I invite you to join us in coming to celebrate Jesus coming to earth. And if you haven’t come to know Jesus yet, I encourage you to bring your life to Him and know the true joy of Christmas.