The Hidden Religious Message in The Little Drummer Boy

Updated on September 10, 2019
Becca Linn profile image

I'm passionate about seeking out light and goodness in the world wherever I can find it, and when I find it, I love to share it with others.


The Story of the Little Drummer Boy

Ever since I was little, I have loved The Little Drummer Boy. I remember hearing it on the radio at a young age and deciding that it was my favorite Christmas song.

This decision had nothing to do with the message of the song and everything to do with its beautiful melody.

As I grew up, I learned to appreciate this song's beautiful and inspiring message just as much as its catchy tune.

The Little Drummer Boy is such a tender story about a boy giving what he can even if it's a meager offering.

The lyrics are as follows (I'm going to leave out all the rum pum pum pums to keep more focus on the story though):

Come they told me,
A new born king to see.
Our finest gifts we bring,
to lay before the king,
So to honor him 
when we come.

Little baby,
I am a poor boy too.
I have no gift to bring
that's fit to give the king.
Shall I play for you
on my drum?

Mary nodded.
The ox and lamb kept time.
I played my drum for him.
I played my best for him.
Then He smiled at me,
me and my drum.

To summarize, a little boy is told to go see the new born king (Jesus Christ) and is told that others are bringing gifts to honor the baby. The boy confesses that he is poor and doesn't have anything to give, so he offers to play his drum. His offer is accepted by the king's mom. The boy plays the best he can, and the infant king smiles at him.

The Obvious Message: Christmas Is About Giving What You Can

The obvious message in this song is the lesson that many of us have been taught from a young age that giving is better than receiving.

This song is a beautiful reminder to me that even if my offering is humble, I should give what I can to my Savior.

He knew that he didn't have much, but he gave what he could. Certainly I can do that too.

I think it's important to note that the boy didn't give Jesus his drum; he gave him a song. In other words he shared his talents.

We don't always have to give material gifts. We can give of ourselves whether it be through sharing our talents, our time, or just our love.

Matthew 25:40 teaches us that as we serve our fellow men, we are also serving our Heavenly King, Jesus Christ.

This made it easy for me to make the connection that I should give what I can wherever I can and it will be the same as giving to my Savior.

The Christmas season is a time to focus on what we can give to others rather than focusing on what we will be getting.

Wait? Is There Another Message Here That I've Been Missing?

It's likely that many of you learned this lesson from the Little Drummer Boy decades ago, but it literally wasn't until this morning that I realized there was another very important lesson this song was trying to teach me.

This song is not just about giving. In fact, as much as I love the example of the little boy who gave all that he could to his Savior, this morning it was the lesson the infant king teaches in this song that really touched my heart.

If you don't remember what lesson the infant king taught, I'll refresh your memory. He smiled at the little boy. The baby's actions were only mentioned in one line of the song, so it's easy to overlook, but worth paying attention to in my opinion.

Jesus Christ is the perfect example, and while this song is fictional, I think the portrayal of him smiling at the gift that he received is fairly true to life.

I imagine that if a child played a song for our Savior, our Savior would offer a genuine smile and would sincerely express his gratitude in a way that I can't even put into words.

In fact, I think no matter what measly offering I have for my Savior, He will smile and graciously accept it with sincere gratitude.

So, could this song be teaching us about how important it is to be humble and grateful recipients of the gifts we receive?

I think it absolutely is!

While it is important to be a generous giver, the infant king in this song teaches us that it is just as important to be a gracious receiver.

Sometimes this is a struggle for me, and I'm assuming that if it's a challenge for me, it's likely a challenge for a few other people too.

Do You Ever Find It Difficult to Receive Gifts?

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A New Twist on Our Favorite Christmas Song

True Confessions: I've Dreaded Receiving Gifts In the Past

This is probably going to make me sound like a horrible person, but I'm guessing I'm not the only one who's felt this way, so I'm going to allow myself to be vulnerable in hopes that it might help someone else make a personal application of this lesson.

I'm pretty good at giving gifts. I love trying to find perfect gifts for the people I love.

Being on the receiving end of the gifts is a totally different story though.

You see, I kind of hate clutter, and if a gift isn't something that I really want, it just becomes clutter in my house, which I don't like.

There have literally been times that I've opened a gift and felt annoyed when I saw what it was, because I knew it was going to be another thing to take up space in my house or more likely another thing for me to donate to a charity or try to regift.

See, I told you it sounds pretty terrible.

I love the people that give me the gifts, and of course I've always smiled and said thank you acting like I loved whatever I received, but in the past, that's made me dread receiving gifts even more.

You see, I'm not a liar in most situations, but I felt like I had to pretend to love every gift that I got, which makes me well...a liar. I hate that feeling!

As you can see I've had a major problem with receiving gifts in the past, but all that changed this morning when I learned the hidden lesson from The Little Drummer Boy.


Excited to Receive Gifts With a Brand New Perspective

I'm so grateful that The Little Drummer Boy inspired this epiphany when it did.

My family is celebrating Christmas a little early this year in order to be able to have all of my siblings in the same place at the same time, and instead of fearing the possibility that I might not get the "perfect gift" from every single person, I'm excited to follow my Savior's example by graciously receiving their love in the form of whatever gifts they have chosen for me.

No matter what a person gives me, it will be "the perfect gift."

I'm already grateful for the gifts I'm receiving. I might not know exactly what they are in the physical aspect, but in the emotional and spiritual aspect, they represent love, and that's the best gift that anybody could give.

It's a gift worthy of my heavenly king and certainly worthy of me.

I've always known that the gifts I received were a representation of people's love, but I was so petty worrying about clutter that sometimes I let little things get in the way of my enjoyment of the beautiful tradition of opening gifts.

I don't feel that way any more.

I will follow my Savior's example by graciously receiving every gift that is offered, and I will be able to sincerely smile and honestly thank the gift givers for every present that I receive this year.

Yes, it's good to be a joyful giver, but it's equally important to be a gracious receiver, and that is the message that I learned from The Little Drummer Boy this morning.

Questions & Answers

  • I love the underlying message that you found in the Little Drummer Boy. May I use it in my community choir's concert of Nine Lessons and Carols?

    Yes, of course! Please feel free to share!

© 2016 Rebecca Young


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    Post Comment
    • Becca Linn profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Young 

      2 years ago from Renton, WA

      Thanks Rachel! You're so kind. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 

      2 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Becca, I don't know how I missed this lovely article you posted before. You are such a thoughtful person, obviously and lovely in spirit. I too always liked this song, but will more so after reading your thoughts on it. Thank you for that.

      Blessings to you.

    • Becca Linn profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Young 

      3 years ago from Renton, WA

      I know I will never listen to that song in quite the same way again. I'm so grateful for what it has taught me.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Two beautiful messages! I will forever remember them when I hear this lovely Christmas carol.


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