My Unlikely Favorite Christmas Hymn

December 13

Dear Friends,

I love Christmas.

I love everything about Christmas: the lights, the giving of gifts, the getting of gifts, decorating our tree, and the food (read: “cookies”).

I love Christmas movies (It’s a Wonderful Life is the greatest, that’s inarguable, but A Muppet Christmas Carol gives George C. Scott’s version a run for his money).

I love walking around the mall packed with people shopping for last-minute presents.

I love Christmas Eve worship services and I love reading Christmas stories to my kids.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to love Christmas carols most of all. These beautiful, soaring hymns are packed full of theology. Consider, for example, “O Come O Come Emmanuel:”

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel

I could go on and on, but as I was listening to music with my kids last night I was surprisingly moved to tears by an unlikely tune. It was “The Little Drummer Boy.”

This is a song we all know, but not one we think of as a hymn, and certainly not one we would describe as theologically robust. The premise seems, at first, sort of silly: a little boy plays a drum for a baby (something no newborn mother would allow in a million years) while the surrounding animals keep time. “Pa rum pum pum pum.”

A careful listen tells the story of a little boy who is invited to meet “a new born king.” The magi who share this news tell him they have brought their finest gifts to honor him, but the poor boy doesn’t have anything to give. He yearns to honor the little baby, but has nothing “fit to give our king.”

“Shall I play for you?” the poor boy asks, sheepishly. His drum is the only thing he has in the world. It’s all that he has to give. So, he plays his drum for him, he plays his best for him – a simple tune.

And Jesus smiles.

I don’t know about you, but I often feel inadequate. The God of the universe loves me so much that He sent His son to take on flesh and die on a cross as a payment for my sins. What could I possibly do to repay him? What gift do I have to bring?

Thankfully, the Good News is God doesn’t require anything from me. He certainly doesn’t need anything I could offer. What pleases Him is my love for Him, a love that I express in my own meager ways. I am poor boy, too, but I’m playing my best for Him. And that makes Him smile.



Eric Teetsel
President and Executive Director