Monday, November 30, 2009

Listening for the Beat of the Drummer Boy

Yesterday we entered Advent.
Unbelievers will now begin their annual marketing orgy. Hopefully, it will explode into the orgiastic delight of getting more cool stuff.
For Christians, Advent is something different; it is a fresh look at the holy family, the incarnate God, and the dawn of redemption.
And, getting some new stuff!

The noise of secular Christmas/Winter solstice/ Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/who-cares-just buy-me-some stuff-and-pass-the-toys-and-booze is a loud continual buzz that can easily drown out a Silent Night. It takes spiritual work to listen for a fair rhythm played by a distant drummer boy. But listen intently, and you can follow that beat all the way to a manger. There, you will also hear the twelve drummers drumming.

The ancient music reminds the saints of all time that another world once broke through ours. One midwinter’s evening in Roman Palestine, God became a man “to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray.”

Advent is about remembering who we are, whose we are, and to where we are headed. It’s about knowing what it means to serve the incarnate God who once became a tiny child.

In a world that has lost much of its magic and mystery, it is increasingly difficult to hear the sound of a drummer boy, or the twelve drummers drumming.

We need to hear it though: it’s the sound that has in all times and in all places been believed by the whole people of God.

Advent is not just about Christmas. It’s the beginning of the church year.

On this very first week of the Christian year, I am beginning a series of blogs that will explore the doctrines that all Christians hold in common. I will be trying help us hear the steady beat that defines how we are called to walk, pray, think and live.

To do that, I will ask you to memorize the Apostles Creed. It summarizes the core teachings of our faith and will give us a framework on which to place our discussions this year.

As we celebrate all the craziness of this wonderful season, we can also examine anew what it means to be a Christian.

The Apostle’s Creed can help us do that.

Why the Apostle’s Creed?
Well, president Reagan once told the story about an American Marine who died after fighting for several days against a superior force. When the Americans found his body, they discovered a message he had written on the wall; two words in his own blood: Semper Fideles (always faithful).
That Marine used his last burst of energy to reveal his soul. When a person is dying, he doesn’t fool around. He gets right to the point. A short statement like the one he used to do that is called a “creed,” a steady beat for those who want to walk in step with one another.
Semper Fideles is the creed of the United States Marines. A young recruit learns the words when he enlists; it takes him years to discover what they mean. The marine creed leads a young person into a rigorous training program and way of life. They mold the recruit into a different sort of person: a marine.
The dying marine knew in advance that he would give his life if it ever became necessary. He used his last measure of devotion and strength to write those two words on the wall merely to let his comrades know that he had kept his commitment. The agony of death would not deter him from keeping the steady beat of The United Sates Marines.
Christians too have a creed, a steady beat to which they play their score and regulate their march through life.
In its most basic form, the creed is simply: “Jesus is Lord!”
We say the words the moment we decide to become a believer but we have no idea where they will finally lead us.
The carol of the drummer boy is a touching story about a child who is shamed because he has no gold, frankincense or myrrh. His heart aches because he can’t find a way to contribute and to show his love to this holy child and his holy parents.
“I have no gift to bring, pa-rum pa pump um
That’s fit to give the king, pa rum pa pump um”

So he decides to beat on his drum.

“I’ll play my drum for him, pa rum pa pum pum
I’ll play my best for him, pa rum pa pump um.”

As the carol continues, we learn that the ox and lamb kept time.

And so do we all, marching century after century to a music the world cannot hear and does not comprehend. The story is so simple and the carols merely flesh out its meaning. But we sing them year after year because we are recalling something that is easy to forget, although it is precious beyond words.

Once in royal David's city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.
He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour Holy.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
That is the beat, the creed to which we pledge our live and which we recall during advent with our ancient songs and mysterious customs.

To all who believe, it is truly tidings of comfort and joy!


SHughes said...

These are the drawstrings which make us remember. Thanks for tugging.

stacy beam said...

Thanks for another insightful and artfully written post.

~*Miss Kelly Jay*~ said...

The drummer boy taught us what "poor in spirit" really means, and it's very touching.

May we all learn how to "play our best for Him," and may we remain "poor in spirit" while doing it.