We’re All the Little Drummer Boy

iStock-1426939197We’re All the Little Drummer Boy


One of the most popular Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy.” With twenty-one repeating lines of “pa rum pum pum pum” and few additional lines, it manages to get to the heart of Christmas for believers.

Let’s take some time today to reflect on this upbeat Christmas song so we can find more meaning the next time we hear it and sing along this Christmas season.

In case you’ve forgotten the lines beyond the catchy “pa rum pum pum pum,” we’ve included the lyrics below.

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum

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

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,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,

When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum

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

I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum

That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,

rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,

On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum

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

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,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum

Me and my drum.

The History of the Little Drummer Boy

It’s hard to decipher the exact history of this popular Christmas song. According to many, it was written by Katherine K. Davis and recorded in 1951.

However, others note the date as 1958.

And others claim it was written in 1941 originally titled “Carol of the Drum.”

While it is hard to track down the original composer, what we do know is that it was popular from the first time it was recorded until today.

In fact, it is Bing Crosby’s most successful recording following “White Christmas.”

Sure, the tune is catchy and easy to remember, but I believe the reason for its popularity is that its simple message gets right to the heart of worship.

Not in the Bible, But Takes Us into the Heart of Worship

“The Little Drummer Boy” is a song in first person, with the narrator being a young boy who met baby Jesus in the manger.

As sweet as the story is, there is not any mention of this drummer boy in the gospels. Got Questions explains, “Luke tells us that a group of shepherds visited the manger where the newborn Christ was laid. Matthew tells us of a group of magi from the East who visited Jesus in Bethlehem (but not necessarily at the manger). Neither gospel writer mentions the presence of a little drummer boy—or the presence of animals, for that matter. Traditional manger scenes that depict a little drummer boy, cows, sheep, donkeys, etc., are displaying creative additions to the biblical story.”

However, that doesn’t mean this Christmas song is a bad song! While the song writer took creative liberties, the message is still biblical.

For example, it does mention other parts of the Christmas story we know to be true, such as the mention Jesus’ humble birth and lowly stature on earth when the drummer boy sings, “I am a poor boy too.”

More importantly, the message of the song is biblical.

Our Daily Bread explains, “Although there isn’t any reference to a drummer boy in the Christmas story in Matthew 1–2 and Luke 2, the point of the carol goes straight to the heart of the meaning of worship. […] All the drummer boy had was his drum […], but the God [he] worshiped was worthy of [his] all. He is worthy of our all as well, having given His all for us.”

We’re All the Little Drummer Boy

Like the drummer boy, we don’t have any gift fit for our King. He created the world. He died for our transgressions. What can we give that is equivalent? Nothing.

Today, it is common to set a price limit for gift giving. This is to alleviate the financial burden and to avoid any awkwardness of giving a gift that costs much less or more than what you’re given.

We cannot set a price limit on giving to God. We owe him everything and then some.

But, too often, we get caught in our human thinking and attempt to give according to the price.

That’s not what God wants.

In Luke 21: 3-4, Jesus tells his followers about the widow her gave her two coins:

“’Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’”

Like the widow, the drummer boy realized he didn’t have “enough” to give the newborn King, but he honored him with his worship by playing “his best for him.”

What Gift Can You Give?

As you move through the Christmas season, ask yourself what can you give the newborn king? What gifts have you been given that you can use to worship Jesus?

We’ve each have our own drum. Is yours singing, serving, encouraging, or hosting? Play these in service to the King this holiday season and throughout the year.

The song concludes with the drummer boy singing, “Then he smiled at me.”

Baby Jesus smiled at the drummer boy’s simple, humble gift.

When we bring our whole selves to God in worship, he smiles at us, too.