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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.

You Can't Quantify Love

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As a young man, I often found myself intrigued by words. In particular, there was one word that stood out to me the most - my name: Francis. I would ask my grandparents why I was given this name and what was significant about it. Frequently, they would respond that I was not old enough to understand the importance of it. As I grew, I would come into an understanding about my namesake: St. Francis of Assisi.

Since learning this, I have often looked to him as someone who truly understood what it means to live poorly. But let me be clear: just because he had a simple life, did not mean he was poor. On the contrary, St. Francis was truly a man who was rich in the love of God - which is something that cannot be quantified.

In our modern day, we often equate success with people who have the best or newest things because we can see what they have and assume they must be living a great life. Yet, society has a habit of scorning those who strive to be pure, dedicated to their faith, and constantly seeking a relationship with God. This is because a relationship with God is not something we can, in fact, quantify. Rather, it is something that we can feel and rely upon even in our most needy of moments.

We must seek God and grow our love and trust in Him. For God is truly all around us, as St. Francis points out in his Canticle of Creation, whether it be in the Sun, the Moon, the Fire, or even in Death. God is always with us. His love knows no bounds, and is not something we can quantify. Be like St. Francis: find God and grow in His life all around you. 

Who Seeks Whom?

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About 13 years ago, my wife and I were separated and I was raising teenage and preteen daughters. I was diligently seeking to know the faith that I had learned as a young boy, a seven-year-old boy to be exact, and I was succeeding. I had encountered God in some amazing ways, but I was still driving the boat so to speak. I was in control, seeking Him in the best way I knew how, which was admittedly simple but also effective. 

My son Matt had just returned after a year and a half as a volunteer at an orphanage in Miacatlán, Mexico. I was so happy to have him home. It was great to have an older child home to discuss matters of the day with, to talk sports, to just be with. Skype was great, but this was much better. I was certain that God had sent him to be with me as another sign of just how much he loved me, and that certainly was true, but there was much more.

A few years later on the Feast of the Epiphany, as I was leaving St. Dominic driving down Parish Drive, I realized that more had occurred when Matt came home than God showing me he loved me. I had an epiphany of my own. In a lighting bolt type moment, I realized that God was seeking me.  That God had always been seeking me. That he not only was seeking me, but he was seeking everyone else as well, and my job was simply to let Him find me. Sure, I needed to seek, but the heavy lifting was being done by a God who loves beyond measure.

From that day, I began a journey of allowing God to find me. Sure, I continually tried to take control, but each time I had to relinquish it. I am the beloved, the one the father seeks out. I am not the initiator. The journey continues. My God loves me(us), he loves all of us so much that he seeks each one of us out. Just like the Shepherd and the lost sheep. Best of all, He will not rest until he finds us.

 

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