Little Drummer Boy – A Christmas Carol Study

This song quickly became my favourite after I heard it performed by a band called Pentatonix. I even wrote a review about it HERE.

If you’re after more, check out my other Christmas carol studies: O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, and Silent Night.

Listen to the song, and come along with me as we delve into the meaning behind the lyrics.

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum

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Who came? This song tells the story of a young boy, coming to see baby Jesus. It does not hold true to any first Christmas records, so don’t try and find it in the Bible. As you will see, it is a beautiful telling of a child who travelled to see baby Jesus, and offering as a gift the only thing he could give: a song on his drum.

The use of a child, instead of an adult is, I think, a beautiful way of commenting on Jesus’ love for children. Jesus often spoke of the beauty of a child’s love and faith. This child was coming before Jesus’ ministry, with enough faith to come for his very birth.

Why a drum? I don’t know about this, and would welcome any thoughts and opinions. In the interest of expanding my knowledge and having an input for it here, I did some research.

There are a few times when percussion instruments were mentioned in the Bible. I found a great site (Drums & the Bible) which explains quite in-depth.

So while I’m not sure if this was what the song writer intended, it is cool to see the connection.

A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum

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Where would you expect a king to be born? In a palace? Surrounded by legions of loyal followers and servants? How about in a manger in a stable, surrounded by smelly animals? Jesus had only just been born and he was already a King. As both the Son of God, and God, he is the King of us all, and if we accept Jesus’ gracious gift of salvation, we get to spend eternity with him.

Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

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As I said above, who would bring expensive gifts to a baby from a no-name family? The Bible tells us of three gifts given to baby Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Have you ever thought what these specific gifts meant? Were they chosen by the wise men (remember, they were not kings and were most likely more than three) because they were symbols, or did they also have more practical reasons? Let’s have a look together.

GOLD – Gold represents kingship. At numerous times in the Bible, gold was a gift given to kings. It was also something that would pay for their journey.

FRANKINCENSE – Frankincense could have symbolised Jesus’ priestly role. At the time, frankincense had been used for health, funeral purposes, and in the temple. It was used in sacrifices, and could have symbolised the sacrifice they knew Jesus would have to make.

MYRRH – The gift of myrrh was possibly a comment on his future – as it was often used in death and embalming. I found an article on website (HERE) that explains it much better than I could. It reads:

Myrrh was also a product of Arabia, and was obtained
from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. It was a
spice and was used in embalming. It was also sometimes
mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Such a drink
was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified,
as a stupefying potion (Mark 15:23). Matthew 27:34 refers to
it as “gall.” Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and
affliction. The baby Jesus would grow to suffer greatly as a
man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life
on the cross for all who would believe in Him.

So to honour Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

While it is unknown where the little drummer boy was supposed to have come from, the wise men (Magi) most likely came from Babylon or Ancient Persia. Despite what the Christmas carols and nativity scenes show, a cursory read of the gospels shows that the wise men actually wouldn’t have been at the birth of Jesus. From their talk with Herod, and other mentions, they would have arrived 1-2 years later. They still brought gifts, but not at the birth.

Pum pum pum pum pa rum pum pum
pum pum pum pum pa rum pum pum
pum pum pum pum pa rum pum pum
pum pum pum ahh

Chinese-drum

Drumming…

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum

We have heard them call Jesus the “King”, but here we see another part of Jesus. He came down to Earth to live as a human. Here, he was a little baby. What is more precious that a little baby? The fact that the most powerful became something to little and vulnerable, is awe inspiring.

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum

I’ve heard different opinions on the wealth of Jesus (well, at this time, Mary and Joseph).

What we know about Joseph was that he was a carpenter. Nothing seems to indicate they were wealthy in anyway, and we are repeatedly told Jesus was poor. During his ministry, they relied on the kindness of others to supply them with lodging and food.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, Joseph did not have enough money or prestige to get them an appropriate place to stay. The gifts from the Magi (even if they were given 1-2 years later) would have helped, but it most likely would have been used to fund their escape to Egypt.

I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a king, pa rum pum pum
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?
(pum pum pum part)

Have you ever felt like someone has given you so much and you could never repay them? How about when Christmas comes around and everyone is swapping presents, and you realise a lot more effort and money went into the present you were given than the one you gave out? Wouldn’t you feel worse if the one getting the short end of the stick was God as human Jesus who came to earth to die for our sins?

In this song, the little drummer boy, he is a poor boy who travelled to greet the Lord in human form, and didn’t have anything worthy enough to give as a gift. With God doing so much for us, it is easy for us to feel inadequate, but we must remember that God loves us and only wants us to accept the sacrifice his son made. There is no list of good deeds that will make us worthy, and no gift we can give to God, because everything is already his!

So what does the little drummer boy do? He shares the gift of music that he had been blessed with. One common misconception about Christianity (from those that want to make it fit to their desires, not God’s) is that as long as you do your best, you will go to Heaven. While the little drummer boy did his best, he did it FOR Jesus. We need to acknowledge that Jesus is God (in the Holy Trinity), that he came to earth as a human, taught, healed, died on the cross, and rose again, all so that we could have eternal life with him in Heaven.

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum

I read something the other day about Joseph not being mentioned in the birth records; not even a ‘midwife’. The Bible says Mary wrapped Jesus in the strips, and Mary laid him in the manger. Being a first time father, there might not have been much he could have contributed. In this song, Mary nodded. I love this mother-son bonding.

The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum

I don’t know what to comment about this part. If you have any comments, please leave them below. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
(pum pum pum part)

As it was said before, there is nothing better than giving your best to God.

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

This song ends with Jesus showing not just his approval – which could have been a nod – but his love, shown in a smile.

I love this song and really enjoyed looking into the meanings behind the lyrics.

What did you think?

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below so it can be made well-rounded.

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12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Today I’ll be continuing the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge by ScaleSimple.

You can find Day 1 HERE, and Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE, Day 5 HERE, Day 6 HERE, Day 7 HERE, Day 8 HERE, and Day 9 HERE.

DAY 10. Favourite Christmas movie or song?

I’ve been waiting for this question. At odd times throughout the year a Christmas song will pop into my head, but it feels different when it’s closing in on December.

MOVIE – 
My favourite Christmas movie would probably have to be Die Hard (1988). I know it’s not Christmas-themed, but it is set at a Christmas party and they do have some Christmas music playing.
TV SHOW – 
I also like to rewatch Christmas episodes of TV shows. There are a few from The Middle (2009-), there’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Amends, and any others that pop on the TV.
SONG – 
Choosing my favourite Christmas song is definitely harder. When I was little, my brother, sister, and I used to listen to Christmas carols as we went to sleep. Only this year did I buy a whole bunch of songs off iTunes and really listened to them again.
A few weeks ago I also found a cool band called Pentatonix. They are an American a cappella group that had uploaded some Christmas songs to YouTube.
Two of them made me fall in love with the season all over again.
First we have ‘Little Drummer Boy’:
And here’s ‘Mary, Did You Know’:
What is your favourite Christmas movie or song? Let me know below, or start your own 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge.

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Picture by ScaleSimple

I nominate: This week’s new followers on Instagram.