A Christmas Story: Me, My Son And A Drum
2014-12-23
Over the past couple of years, our band has played different versions of Drummer Boy at our church for special Christmas concerts.  We take an average song, about a fictional character who encounters a real historical baby, and we make it a big production.  Every year we have added something new to the mix to try and keep things fresh.  This past year, my youngest son played a drum next to me along with two other drummers, another little guy his age who played next to his daddy, and three additional dudes playing trash cans.  It was chaos and entertaining all at the same time.  

The song has special meaning to me and I'd like to share that with you in an effort to illustrate a bigger point.  In 1993 my younger brother Mark bought a used drum set for an incredible price. It was his dream set.  It had at least two of everything in the kit.  Two kick drums.  6 racked toms.  2 floor toms.  There were so many cymbals that when they were all set up you could barely see my brother smiling behind the drums.  We were just coming out of the 80's so everything in music had to be flamboyant and big.  I don't know if I had ever seen my brother so happy as when he played on those drums.  We played in bands together from the moment we started learning how to play our instruments.  Mark had those drums for just a little over a week before he was killed in a tragic car accident.  

The drums sat empty in a dark basement.  They remained where he had left them.  His sticks were neatly packed away in his new leather drum stick case that came with the set.  His cymbals sat silent.  The new heads on the drums remained mostly un-played.  And then one day, in a moment of extreme grief during the hot summer of 1993 I went down into the basement and sat behind his kit.  If Mark had come down those stairs it would have ended in a fight.  But he wasn't coming down the stairs.  I was sitting in a seat that Mark had always wanted to sit in.  As I started to weep, I picked up those sticks and I started to play - terribly.  I had never tried to play drums before but I started to wail on those drums.  I resolved in my heart that I would learn to play those drums - I would play for Mark - in his stead.  

Over the years I began to play drums in several bands and at our church.  Eventually, that drum set was moved to the church where I served as youth pastor.  During those years pieces of the drum set began to disappear all over the church building.  The drum set was a shadow of what it once was that day when Mark first played the set in our basement.  But then one Christmas our church decided to put on a huge Christmas concert.  I hadn't played drums for several years and had not realized what disrepair the drum set was in.  We began to piece the set back together to get it ready for our new version of Drummer Boy.  We cleaned it, we bought new heads and replaced cracked cymbals.  It was finally back to it's former glory and ready for our drummer to play those drums the way they were meant to be played.  

This past week those drums sounded again.  I haven't picked up sticks in a while and it took a lot of practice just to get back in a groove.  This time I would only use half of the set but my heart would be full.  My now five-year-old son Jovan was going to play along side of me for Drummer Boy.  My good friend Tony who is like a son in the faith played along with his young son.  My cousin David played in such a way that I imagine my brother would have been able to play if he were on this earth today.  So we played our drums for Jesus.  I played my brothers drums for Jesus.  

When I sing the words to that silly song, the narrative belongs to me.  I am not singing about an old cartoon, I am singing about what I believe heaven might be like and how the church in those moments, during that rock song, reflect the musical movement of heaven.  When I play those old drums and my son, friends and family are playing along with me, I am joining in a heavenly chorus of Christmas celebration - that Jesus was given to us.  I wonder if in some way, in those moments, I am playing along side of a great cloud of witnesses of which my brother is a part. 

And this is the bigger point that I would like to make - Christmas is about maximizing Jesus and minimizing ourselves.  That is why the song Drummer Boy means something to me personally.  For me, the song is not about a cartoon clay-mation character from a bygone era.  For me the song is about worshiping Jesus.  It's about going to the manger, to the cross, to the grave and to the ascension of Jesus Christ and worshiping Jesus as King.  My brother believed that Jesus is the Risen King and so now he lives in his presence for all eternity.  In those Christmas moments, when the world sort of seems to stop for a bit, and I'm looking at my son playing his heart out for the Savior that he confidently worships as only a small child could, and when I beat the drums I wish my brother was playing in place of me, I am reminded that Christmas began a celebration in heaven that will never cease.  



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