Little Drummer Boy

Repost from Redhill Church blog. Some friends and I reflected on some of our favourite carols. This is one of mine…

The history…

The Little Drummer Boy was written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. It’s spawned a bunch of cover versions, a 1968 movie, a Veggie Tales episode and has given percussionists a rare spotlight on stage (though our drummer friend Amanda has not-so-great memories of this; being made to dress as a ‘Little Drummer Boy’ as a grown woman while playing professionally!).

What it’s about…

This carol tells the story of a young boy who is summoned to visit the newborn King. The boy admits he has no material gift to present to Jesus; nothing in the realm of the sort of gifts the Magi bring. Instead, he offers Jesus what he can: the gift of his music. He plays his drum for Jesus, and Jesus likes it.

When I sing it…

I sing this song quite a bit around Christmas; mostly as a bedtime lullaby rocking a restless little one to sleep! When I sing this song I’m placing myself in the feet of the young boy going to visit Jesus. We’re telling a story that illustrates what true worship is about: approaching the King and honouring Him with all we have to give. This story tells of Jesus smiling back at the boy as He plays, reminding us that God loves it when we worship Him. It may not be with fancy gifts or professional singing or vibe-y lighting, but if it’s genuine, Jesus loves it.

The story also touches on the role of creation in worshipping the King. In this story the animals are joining in with the young boy in praising Jesus. When we sing ‘the ox and lamb kept time’ we’re echoing the sentiments of the Psalmist who spoke of all the earth praising God (Psalm 66). It also points my mind to the vision in Revelation 5: ‘And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”’

The Little Drummer Boy paints a fictional picture, but it’s a beautiful picture rooted in true principles of worship. As we sing this song we’re both reminding ourselves and proclaiming to the world what true worship is, and how much Jesus loves it.

Check out these versions…

Pentatonix (YouTube)

For King and Country (YouTube)


My friends have written some other great reflections on carols. Check them out on the Redhill Church blog…

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