“Our finest gifts we bring pa rum pa pum pum, To lay before the King pa rum pa pum pum…” Song lyric, The Little Drummer Boy*
Christmas is on the way! Often lost in this frenetic season is the meaning of Christmas, which to the Christian is the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. For many people their non-working hours are spent decking the halls, baking cookies, shopping and listening to the never ending Christmas music that began on November 1 (much to my dismay).
One of the traditional favorites carols is The Little Drummer Boy. With its simplistic lyrics and timeless tune it is easy for young children to learn. It is a portion of the lyrics that I would like to focus on today.
For a little background, and to set the stage I will remind you that Matthew (Chapter 1, 2) & Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 2) recount the circumstances surrounding the conception and birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Luke passage explains to us that Jesus was not born in a palace or even in a shack, he was born in an animal shelter or what we would call a stable. It was most likely a cave cut into the face of a hillside.
The Magi (Wisemen) were eastern magicians or astrologers. Scripture does not enumerate them, and it is tradition that leads us to conclude there were three of them. If you follow the account of these men in Scripture it is likely that Jesus was already a toddler by the time they found him in Bethlehem. They most certainly did not attend to Him on the night of His birth. They arrived in Jerusalem after Jesus was born, and questioned everyone they met as to where “the King of the Jews” might be.
When Herod got wind of this, he gathered together all the chief priests and scribes, called for the Magi to meet with them to discuss their quest. Herod also met secretly with the Magi and then sent them on their way to Bethlehem. All of this took quite a bit of time to accomplish. In addition there was time needed for the Magi to gather the supplies for these journeys. The Magi traveled in a large caravan and while the journey was short to go down to Bethlehem there were many preparations that needed to be made.
When they arrived in Bethlehem the Child Jesus (he was 2 years old or younger) and His parents were living in a house. They presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). It is here that we finally get to the meat of today’s posting.
The Magi were Gentiles, and so it is significant that they brought gifts that were fit for a Jewish king. Jesus was a King, the King they had learned of from the Hebrew Scriptures. Each of those gifts had a significance that the givers did not understand, but a careful student of Scripture will see that the gold represented His Kingship, the frankincense was for His High Priestly ministry as God, and the myrrh was used in burial and signifies suffering. These gifts signify the purpose of the King’s birth and look forward to His earthly ministry and His sacrificial death.
The gifts you and I give to others at Christmastime are representative of the gift of God to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. If the Drummer Boy were a real character, he would have brought his finest gift to the Lord. I am sure that if you and I were alive and aware of His birth we would also have brought Him our best.
The real gift’s we bring are not fine, but in fact they are the reason this King was born. We often forget at Christmas that the sole reason Jesus was born was to redeem sinful mankind from sin! We get all wrapped up in the Christmas story, the manger, the animals in the stable and how tragic it was that our Savior was born there. We forget that Jesus was born for one purpose- the cross.
No, we have no “gift” to bring to the manger that is of any significance to Jesus other than our sinful selves.
He never needed the gold or frankincense, both treasures of the world and certainly worthy of being presented to any king. He did not come for any other treasure than humanity. Sinful, lost and wandering sheep that are foolish and will walk right off a cliff if given the chance. He came to redeem us from our sinfulness and transform us into people who bring Him honor and glory.
Do you know Him? Have you met the Savior through the Word of God and His Holy Spirit? This time of year people tend to think more spiritual thoughts and yearn for something deeper than the gifts under the tree. Consider that these yearnings may be the stirring of your soul by the Lord God of the Universe. He may be preparing your heart to bring your finest gift to Him this Christmas, that of yourself.
*”The Little Drummer Boy” Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone, 1958, Lyrics.com