Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum and a Smile in the New Year

Pair of tom tom drums

I recently read Scripture at a friend’s wedding. It was an honor for me to proclaim God’s Word to the wedding party and guests. I could have declined or made excuses, and maybe even suggested someone else for the job, but weddings are exciting events! Declining was furthest from my heart. If you’ve been in a wedding, you know what I mean.

I don’t think many of us would say we participated in a wedding ‘out of the goodness of our hearts.’ This is because it’s not so much a hardship as it is a privilege. And the highest privilege, being a maid of honor or best man, isn’t really about what we have to offer. It’s about who we are: someone dear to the bride or groom.

man standing at pulpitWe are also dear to God – especially dear. Do we serve Him with the same readiness and enthusiasm? Or do we bring stipulations and conditions? Do we hold off until there’s a task that matches our higher skill sets? Do we wait for someone to ask for our help?

If so, then maybe I’ll be the first to say we have already been asked and it is incumbent upon us to step forward. We owe a great service to God who has done more for us than we could ever imagine or deserve, and who continues to be a present advantage at our side. We’re not perfect, of course, but let’s not allow our imperfection to excuse us from what God expects of us.

God expects our sacrifice. It is fitting.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters,
in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God—
this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1

Am I continually giving of myself as God expects? Admittedly, no, but Romans 12 offers a clear path to doing so.

There's a lot of context around Romans 12:1. Here’s the short version of the first 11 chapters:
1.     No one is righteous (Romans 3:9-19)
2.     Jesus (who is righteous) sacrificed Himself to save us, and we are made righteous through faith (Romans 3:21-31)
3.     We enjoy freedom in many ways (Romans 5-8)
4.     By God’s choice, salvation is for all (Romans 9-11)

So, nothing from us. Everything from God.

Now let’s focus on the more immediate context right before Romans 12:1:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36

God is vastly beyond us in wisdom, understanding, and glory. He is greater than us in every way, including those ways that make us feel good about ourselves. God is sovereign, He’s in complete control, and no one can rival Him.

We have nothing of real value to offer God except for
honoring Him in the ways He has requested.

My favorite Christmas song is The Little Drummer Boy*. It’s a fictional story about a boy who was invited by the Magi to join them in offering gifts to the “newborn King.” The Magi brought their “finest gifts” of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew2:10-11).

boy playing tom tom drums in orchestra

The boy, however, had “no gift to bring” and he identified with Baby Jesus when he said he “is a poor boy, too.” So, he did what he could. He asked if he could play his drum to honor Him. “Mary nodded” and he played. He played his best for the newborn King, and the Baby “smiled.”

The boy represents more than himself. He is all of us. Considering what we read in Romans, we are poor boys, too.

We have no gifts to lay before the King,
no matter how gifted we are.

No matter how wise or smart we may be, we are dim compared to God. No matter how successful we are, and how hard we’ve worked, our things and achievements are useless when we consider who God is and what He can do.

We don’t know if the boy was a good drummer. He had rhythm, but maybe he wasn’t that great of a drummer. Have we considered that, when we play for Jesus, it doesn’t really matter if we have mad drumming skills, or even poor skills? When we honor Him, it doesn’t matter how fine our gifts are or how much more we give than the next person. All of this is irrelevant. It has no bearing on whether we see the Baby smile.
This is not to say there was something wrong with the gifts from the Magi. On the contrary, they worshiped Jesus and gave meaningful gifts to honor Him.

How can we honor Jesus?
We do it through a transformation of our hearts and minds. We replace our natural tendencies, like thinking highly of ourselves, with a new will and a new way of life that comes from God.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

teenager marching in band playing bass drumIn other words, considering the context, since we have no gifts to lay before the King, we allow God to shore up all the deficiencies in our lives, including our tendency to think we can manage ministry on our own.

All that we are and all that we have come from God, not us. He gifted us.  Even our faith and wisdom are from God. We love with God’s love. We offer grace because God is gracious to us. We give money that already belongs to God. We sacrifice because of God’s comprehensive sacrifice. We serve with Jesus as our example. There is nothing good in us (Ephesians2:1-5). Jesus is the vine – the resource of all good for the branches. We bear fruit only when we remain connected to the vine (John15:5-14).

Romans 12 further describes the manner in which we should honor and sacrifice for God. It must be done for the benefit of others (1Corinthians 12:7), and we express it with sincerity and kindness.

(See Chip Mattis’ terrific post on kindnessRead more 
from Chip at or @chipmattis on Twitter.)

We also express our sacrifice with humility.
…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Romans 12:3

Left to ourselves, we are very good at tooting our own horns and looking out for “number one.”  But if we are helpful, it’s because God is working through us. We are gifted only because God gifted us, and, as the perfecter of our faith, He continues to make us better so we can serve Him more effectively (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It’s not about what we can offer or do. It’s about what God does through our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I know this doesn’t comfort our egos, but it’s the truth. If it feels like we’re serving because God needs us to, we’re thinking too highly of ourselves, as if we have something to bring to the table. God wants living sacrifices who obey and honor Him in humility, but we would rather volunteer in strength out of the goodness of our hearts.

God requires our service. Following Him in obedience and gratitude is the appropriate way to respond to His request (Romans 12:1, Ephesians 2:6-10). And we do it for the sake of others – to build them up with an eye toward Heaven.
Maybe the best thing about The Little Drummer Boy* is this:
The boy didn’t have a drum solo. He didn’t do his own thing and he didn’t play for his own satisfaction. He played while the ox and lamb kept time. The beat (the timekeeper) is arguably the most important feature of a song. A melody isn’t even melodious without the structure of time. The boy followed the lead of animals – animals that are commonly used for sacrifice. He not only identified with Jesus, He identified with the ox and lamb who knew how to sacrifice. The boy followed their lead when he offered himself.

Tom tom drums with text that reads "Rhythm: With every beat of our hearts, may we step closer to the altar of living sacrifice for our King"

Every pa rum pum pum pum was a step toward the altar of living sacrifice to honor the newborn King.
Do our pa rum pum pum pums make Jesus smile?

Let's think about our honor and sacrifice while we
listen to For King and Country
perform The Little Drummer Boy

Find all of my Christmas posts here.

Read more blog posts here.
*Little Drummer Boy was originally named “Carol of the Drum,” written by Katherine K.Davis in 1941.  Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone modified the arrangement and retitled it The Little Drummer Boy in 1958.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


  1. Thanks Stephen, You have reminded me to keep a check on my pride. It sneaks up on me all the time! Truly, I have nothing to offer except what God has given me - and my presentation will never be perfect.
    May He bless you and yours this Christmas!

    1. Hi Beth. We can even be terrible at things skill-wise, and God can use us. All we need to bring is an available heart. This is sometimes counter-intuitive in our me-first and social media ways of life. Have a blessed Christmas!


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