When I was in the 6th grade we were offered the opportunity to learn how to play a musical instrument. That meant, once a week we would be taken out of class for lessons with the local high school band teacher. I was so excited! I rushed home to share the good news with my parents. I was definitely interested and I was hopeful that they would support this newfound passion of mine. Naturally, their first question was what instrument I was most interested in learning. Was it the flute? The piano? The clarinet?
“I want to play the DRUMS!”
Although I’m sure they were a bit hesitant to do so, my parents indulged my interest and for the next 8 weeks I took drum lessons. I remember going to the music store with my dad to pick up my “kit” that we would be renting for the duration of the lessons. I was disappointed that it only included a rubber pad and a pair of sticks; no snare, no base drum, no tom toms, no high hat, no cymbals. It did however include a xylophone which my teacher called “the bells.” It was a pretty cool set up… but it wasn’t quite the fancy drum set I had always dreamed of playing.
My mom shared with me recently that after just a few weeks of lessons I was at church for our weekly mid-week youth program. The children’s choir director announced before we were dismissed to our classes that she was looking for anyone who knew how to play a musical instrument to sign up to share their talent with the whole group. My mom recalled that I came home that night to proudly announce that I had signed up.
“Oh?” she said with a hint of surprise in her voice. “What are you going to play?”
“The bells,” I said, as if she had somehow forgotten what instrument I played.
As she recalled this story to me she said, “With that kind of confidence I wasn’t going to stand in your way.”
I do remember playing “Silent Night” for the youth group, but I hadn’t remembered how it had all come about. My mom was right to be surprised at my willingness to put my newly acquired “talent” out there for all to see. Looking back now, it makes me chuckle. With only a few lessons under my belt I really was winging it. I had to teach myself how to play “Silent Night” by ear, and it was literally just a single note at a time. There was no fancy harmony, no trills or slides in my presentation. It was just the basics. Nevertheless, I did play for the rest of my youth group and from what I remember everything went smoothly. There were no rotten tomatoes thrown or anything.
This time of year I get to hear my favorite song ever written, “The Little Drummer Boy.” There are so many things I love about this song, the most obvious being that it is about a drummer. But the true message of the song is so meaningful to me. It has been the theme of my life for as long as I can remember.
I’m sure you are familiar with the lyrics. Perhaps your mind has already gone to that familiar and repeated chorus, “Pa rum pa pum pum.” But the simple lyrics of the verses are so powerful. This little boy is invited by the wise men to join them in visiting the newborn King. He sees that they’ve come from distant lands with their expensive and extravagant gifts and he has nothing to give the King. He’s poor. He could never come up with anything worthy of the gifts that they are bringing. And then it dawns on him! He does have something to give. He can play his drum! He’ll play his very best for Him. He’ll bring Him honor by giving the gift he has been given, the gift of playing drums.
Despite the Biblical inaccuracies of the song (the wise men did not visit Jesus at the stable and he was probably closer to 2 years of age when they did visit) I cannot sing that song or even talk about it without choking up. This is such a beautiful picture of God’s desire for each of us.
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.” Paul is urging us to give of ourselves, to worship God, our King by giving ourselves to Him. What better gift can we give to God than the very gifts, talents, skills and abilities that He has given to us as our Creator? There is no finer gift fit for a King.
No matter how poor we are, we are never without something to give to God. He has endowed us with so much to give back to Him. Like the Little Drummer Boy we give to Him because of who He is, our King, our Lord, our Savior, our Creator. And, we are never without a reason to give to Him. We give to Him because of what He has given to us – forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and a restored relationship with God the Father that will last for all eternity.
I can’t say that my motivation to play “Silent Night” for my youth group was the same motivation as the Little Drummer Boy’s. I don’t think I was thinking about honoring God in that moment or bringing Him my finest gift. I was probably more interested in just showing everyone my newly acquired set of bells. But there is something to say about that childlike confidence. I didn’t know I wasn’t very talented or that my rendition of “Silent Night” would be so plain. I didn’t consider what others would think of me or that they may be way more talented than I was. I had an instrument that I knew how to play (sort of) so I played it.
As adults I think we talk ourselves out of serving and giving ourselves to the Lord. We lose that childlike confidence because we compare ourselves to others. We judge our gifts to be somehow less worthy, thereby thinking our efforts will be less pleasing to God. So instead, we do nothing. We keep our gifts to ourselves. We shift our focus to others and assign the task of “honoring God with our talents” to those we see on the platform on Sunday mornings.
We forget the gifts that God has given us are His to give. The Holy Spirit has personally selected at least one spiritual gift to give each of us. If you are a believer in Jesus as your Savior you have at least one. That doesn’t begin to include all of the talents, skills, and abilities He has uniquely created us to have. Who are we to say that what He has designed is less worthy, that our gift is somehow less pleasing to Him than someone else’s? He created us! And His desire is for us to want to give back to Him all of us, to yield everything about us, our very selves, to Him. This is not a task that can be shifted to someone else. He desires each of us to want to worship Him by giving back to Him. What better gift to give Him than what He has given to us.
After all these years I still am passionate about the drums. Though my lessons never went beyond those initial 8 weeks in 6th grade, the passion never faded. That’s because I believe God put that passion in me. Now that I’m retired, I hope to pursue it and finally learn how to play a real set of drums. (Oh man, I can hardly wait!)
What’s the passion that’s stirring inside of you? What gift, talent, skill or ability have you been given? Pay attention to it. As Paul said to Timothy, “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you.” (2 Timothy 1:6) Don’t keep it to yourself. Give it back to the One so worthy to receive your very best. And, as you hear “The Little Drummer Boy” this Christmas season, my prayer is that you will recognize the wealth you have to give and respond as he did by asking, “Shall I play for you?” (Par-rum-pa-pum-pum.)
Lord, I thank you for the way you have created each person on this earth so uniquely. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts that He gives those who believe in your Son Jesus and call Him Lord. Father, may we honor you by playing for you, serving you with our whole being, becoming living sacrifices for you, that you may be glorified and that others may come to you. Thank you for allowing us to give back to you. Thank you for the most beautiful Gift of all, and the One we focus on this Christmas season, your Son Jesus, our Savior. It’s in His name I pray, amen.