I do not go to birthday parties empty handed. I always bring a gift for the guest of honor, for the one whose birthday is being celebrated. And every time I wonder, is my gift something the person being celebrated will like? Will they find my gift acceptable? Will I be embarrassed or ashamed when they open my gift? It is a sad feeling to believe that you have nothing to give or to think that what you do have to give has no value and so will not be accepted nor welcomed by anyone.
Maybe that’s why I remember so clearly from childhood the Christmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy.” Being a child myself at the time, I completely identified with the little boy and his dilemma. The words to the song tell the story of this little boy invited to see the baby Jesus –
“Come they told me . . . A newborn King to see . . . Our finest gifts we bring . . . To lay before the King . . . So to honor Him, when we come.”
We know what fine gifts the three Wise Men brought to the baby Jesus. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh – gifts considered fit for a King. But for the little drummer boy, there is a problem. He doesn’t have anything so splendid as those lavish gifts that he could present to the baby Jesus.
“Little Baby . . . I am a poor boy too . . . I have no gift to bring . . . that’s fit to give the King . . . “
This is the same problem the hero in my favorite Christmas book, “The Littlest Angel” has. A small boy, who has recently become the littlest angel in heaven, has no gift to give the Christ Child on His birthday. I feel the agony and the angst of both the little drummer boy and the littlest angel as if it were my own. And if truth be told, it is my own. I still feel the agony today of coming empty handed into the presence of my Redeemer and King – the King – the King of the universe – the King of all eternity.
Truly, the cattle on a thousand hills are His. What can I possibly offer to the Creator of all things? Well, I can learn something from both the little drummer boy and the littlest angel. The little drummer boy gave to the Christ child the one thing that was his alone to offer up –
“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”
The little drummer boy offered up to God his God given talent. He gave what he had freely received from God, back to God, using his talent to entertain the sacred, holy child. As the song tells us, he gave his best and baby Jesus smiled – his gift was accepted. His gift was received with the smile of the Christ Child.
It was the same for the littlest angel. He gave what was most precious to him to the Christ Child on His birthday. This was a small wooden box containing his earthly treasures – a golden-winged butterfly, a sky blue bird’s egg, two white stones and the collar of his old dog. This was all the littlest angel had, all that connected him to his memories of earth. He felt his gift to be shabby and valueless in comparison to the other much grander gifts from the other angels. But the littlest angel’s gift was not only accepted but exalted by God, who knew the angel had given what he treasured most in all the universe.
So what can I bring to the Christ Child? My hands are empty. What have I of value to give to the King of Kings? What would please Him? I find an answer in Hosea 6:6 –
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
The prophet Micah struggled with this same question, wondering what he could possibly give to God that would be acceptable and well received. Here’s what he said –
“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? . . . Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:6-8)
King David also asked this question, not wanting to come to God empty handed, but also not wanting to give a gift to God that He would not accept. I read David’s words in Psalm 51:16-17 –
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
Paul said this in Romans 12:1-
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”
It would seem that God does not want a part of my possessions nor a part of me, but rather He wants me, all of me. He wants my heart – all of it. Nothing half-hearted will He accept, only my wholehearted surrender and devotion. When questioned by one of the teachers of the law, Jesus said this –
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
“All” seems to be the operative word in that statement of Jesus. I’ve been worrying about showing up empty handed, when all along Jesus just wants me to show up at all, because He wants me, not what I can give Him. He doesn’t need anything, the world and everything in it are already His. The gift I can give God is my heart, all of it. I can clean out space and prepare Him room, just like the Christmas carol says, room to receive God’s gift of His Son, Jesus.
Turns out, the gift I can give God, is to accept His gift. I can make room and I can receive Jesus into my heart, home and life. God’s gift has been given. Will I receive Him? I may have come empty handed – but I will not remain that way. God’s gift of Jesus will fill me to overflowing with love, peace, joy, hope and life everlasting. I just have to open the door.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Psalm 24:7)
sincerely, Grace Day
2 thoughts on “gifts of Advent”
The little drummer boy has always been one of my favorite Christmas stories. What a beautiful reminder that god isn’t after physical gifts like you mentioned, as they are already his. He is after a surrendered open heart which he may fill to overflowing with his love joy and peace! Glory to God in the highest!
This December 21st post reminded me of what I’m focusing on! It’s such a frantic time to make sure all the gifts are wrapped and Christmas cookies and dinner are prepared! I’m resting on the couch, catching my breath, and reading your blog. I’m thankful to be reminded to focus on all of the life-saving gifts God has given to me, and the importance of giving Him the daily gift of myself, and my heart to serve Him and others.