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The Little Drummer Boy

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“The Little Drummer Boy” is my all-time favorite Christmas song. Oddly, I can remember singing it in Christmas pageants as a kid hating it. “What a dumb song! There is no drummer boy in the story of the nativity,” I would think to myself while rum-pum-pumming to the beat. But a few years back, a Canadian a cappella group known as Pentatonix released their version of the song. Being a fan of the group, I listened and was amazed when I promptly burst into tears listening.

 Yes, their arrangement is beautiful. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly recommend it. But something about the lyrics to the song hit me in a new way as I listened to them.

 You see, the little drummer boy is me. It is each of us. Whether or not there was actually a little drummer boy at the nativity scene is irrelevant really. Because the story is still a narrative that perfectly describes each of us coming before the infant Lord in the manger at Christmas.

 Here is this little boy who is told to prepare to go meet a new king. How could he possibly understand what that really means? Other than knowing it is something, someone very important. How can I? How can I truly understand the fullness of the babe in swaddling clothes? Who He is and what He means to the world?

 The drummer boy is told to bring his finest gifts for the king. But he is poor. He has nothing to offer anyone, let alone a king. Was he ashamed walking up to the king with nothing? Insecure or afraid he would be found lacking? Even if he was the richest person in the world, what gifts of use or importance could anyone possibly give to a king?

 I too am poor. Not so much materially, but spiritually, emotionally, personally. What gifts do I possibly have to give a king? THE King? Should I even bother approaching? Am I worthy? Am I welcome? Will I be found lacking?

 Off he goes with the rest of his community to meet this newborn king. And as his time comes to go up to bestow gifts, all he can present is himself. In his poverty. In his nothing-ness. Just himself and the only thing he has--his drum. And so he plays. Maybe not well—he is a little boy. Being poor, I presume the drum is beat up and ragged. But despite the challenges facing him, the ways in which he is lacking, the little boy plays. And the song tells us he plays the best he possibly can for this little baby king, hoping to do him justice with the little he has to offer.

 Isn’t this the reality for all of us as we approach the newborn King at Christmas? Walking up in humble confidence knowing we have nothing to give, except for our very selves. Knowing we too are poor compared to Him. Wanting to do Him justice with the little that we have to give. Approaching Him nonetheless; striving to do our best, to “play” our best for Him regardless. To give the best of what we have, the best of what we are, little though it might be. Just ourselves. In all our flaws and failures and nothing-ness.

 And how does He respond?

 “Then he smiled at me, par-rum-pum-pum-pum.”

 It is enough. It is more than enough. You alone are enough. Jesus delights in the song of the little drummer boy, likely far more than He delighted in the gifts of the Magi. The point of the gifts, according to the song, is to honor the King. And what honors our King more than the gift of our self? Our heart and mind and life and very being, presented to Him as a gift of love. What need has a king for fancy gifts? What He wants is us! To love us. To have a relationship with us. Poor, humble, and playing our best on the beaten up drum of life. He sees us standing before Him. And He smiles with delight.

Unique Images of God

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I have spent much of the late summer fascinated by the images coming from NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope. For many science-y reasons I can’t explain, it is a groundbreaking telescope able to capture images of space previously unobservable to us. The clarity and definition of the images are breathtaking. The photos look like paintings. They are artwork. God’s artwork painted in the universe.

I have spent a great deal of time viewing the images and marveling at the wonders they reveal. And always, this marveling has led me to praise of God. Marveling at the Creator of all these wonders. To think that our God created all of that. To think how beautiful, how expansive, how immense the universe, and our God created it all. Oh, what a God we have!

In the midst of this praise and wonder, there is always a soft echo in my heart: “And even with all these wonders, I still thought it necessary to create you, my dear Claire.” “Even with all these wonders, my creation would not have been complete without you to love and cherish.” 

Oh what a God we have! To have created the entire expanse of the universe, an expanse infinite in its depths, and still deem it incomplete without me. To create planets and solar systems and entire galaxies and nebulae and still think little ol’ me, in all my flaws and weaknesses and imperfections, was necessary, was desirable, was lovable. To think, God’s creation wasn’t complete without me.

You were necessary. You were desired. The created world was incomplete to God without you in it.

This is true of me.
This is true of you.
This is true of every single person on this earth.

From the baby in a mother’s womb, to the homeless person wandering the street, to the incarcerated, to the politically or religiously opposite, to the President, to the toddler coloring all over your home, to the difficult person at work, to the person who cut you off in the drop-off line, to the person slowly taking their last breath. Creation was incomplete without every one of these people.

Unique images of God, as diverse and unique as the stars in the universe, every one of them.

May we marvel at the necessity and desirability of ourselves. May we wonder at the necessity and desirability of every person we encounter. Truly we are each a greater marvel than the entire expanse of the universe.

Keeping Vigilant

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The Gospel of Mark 13:24-32, begins the Adventen turn toward the End Times and the Second Coming of Christ. It is a passage that carries no warm and fuzzy messages, but rather messages of warning. We do not know the day nor the hour when this life will end and we will come face-to-face with our Maker. Are you ready to make an account for your life?

This passage reminds us to keep ourselves vigilant, ready at any moment to face judgment. It reminds us of our true priorities: all that belongs to this world will pass away. It is only Christ that remains. Do I live my life in a way that embodies the eternal nature of Christ, but the fleeting nature of worldly goods?

Furthermore, it is not just our salvation that we work for. As part of the Body of Christ, we are also called to work for the salvation of others. As we are reminded with the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, we are not isolated beings pursuing holiness, we are part of a communion of saints. We belong to each other. How are you praying for those around you? How are you sacrificing so that they might come to know Christ or deepen their relationship with Him? Do you notice people missing at Mass? People who used to come? What are you, personally, doing to invite them back to Mass?

We do not know the day nor the hour when Christ will come again. Nor do we know the day nor the hour when our individual life on earth will end. But we do know eternal life awaits us. Let us live our lives in such a way that we get there, and bring as many people with us as possible!

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