Little Drummer Mandy, part two

I began my transition from the Mormon church to this new church family during the winter of 1995. During this time I spent most waking hours with a handful of friends from the new church, two of whom were amazing musicians. One of these, Ben, would spend hours introducing me to various Christian artists. It was kind of like having my own personal DJ every day after school. We would walk downtown to the local Christian paraphernalia store and he would scan all the newest CD titles while I would peruse, in awe at the amount of Christian subculture material available for purchase. During one of these trips to downtown Pekin I spent around $5 on a cassette tape of four tracks performed by a brand new band called Jars of Clay. Two of the tracks were varying performances of the same Christmas song, “Little Drummer Boy.” I bought the tape because it was the least expensive one in the store, and Ben assured me that I would love this band.

I am sure I’d heard the song “Little Drummer Boy” before the Christmas of 1995. But I hadn’t believed in God before the Christmas of 1995. Everything that Christmas was new; the entire season had meaning and significance that hadn’t existed before. The first time I listened to my new tape, I cried (wept might be a better word, but I don’t want to seem dramatic). Normally I have a strong aversion to any song with “sound-y” lyrics…”aah’s” and “ooh yea’s” and “pa-rum-pum-pum-pum’s.” But the story of this song rose above my annoyance.

The song is about a group of people going to see an infant King. They are taking fine gifts to honor him, and a boy is invited along.  He goes with them because he wants to meet this King, but he is poor with nothing to offer in tribute. So when they arrive, and they see the infant King in poor surroundings, the boy offers the only thing he has of his own. He offers to play a song for the King. The baby’s mother nods her assent, and so the little boy plays with everything in him. He says he played his best for the King. The final lines of the song get me every time (I’m tearing up as I read them to write this).

“Then He smiled at me, pa-rum-pum-pum-pum,

Me and my drum.”

This poor boy with his humble gift, a gift that could only be given in the moment never to be seen or heard again, this boy and his gift were accepted. Not just “not rejected.” The infant King smiled on the peasant boy. In my mind, this smile bestowed value on the boy and his gift that could never be measured or taken away. He wasn’t evaluated on his intellect or wealth or extravagance. His value was in his heart, his willingness to give everything he had to honor the King, and his courage to offer something so small it could have easily been rejected as unworthy.

In December of 1995, I felt as poor and low in value as that little boy. I had no money or influence or family heritage to offer. I wasn’t talented or beautiful or  wise. I was a small, poor, broken girl who had met a King and was brave enough to believe He might accept her. I offered him what little I had, knowing even that was tainted. It’s taken years for me to believe He also loves me, values me as much as the beautiful and talented and smart people in the world. He has redeemed me and given me things to give back to Him, for which I am grateful. But as we head into my 16th Advent season since coming to faith, this song of meager offerings and their power to draw a smile from the infant King is one I still sing as my own.

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1 Comment

  1. December 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    […] into the song. I’ve written about the impact the latter song has had on me here and here. My favorite lighter songs are “Let It Snow” and “Baby, It’s Cold […]


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