Protestors, Drummers, and Virgins. An Advent Reflection of Love

This past Saturday, there was a national day of nonviolent protest. In the wake of events such as Michael Brown in Ferguson and Tamir Rice in Cleveland and John Crawford in Ohio and Eric Garner in Staten Island a large number of people have decided it is time to speak up and speak out in a variety of ways. There were marches. There were die-ins. Stores and major highways were closed due to the amount of traffic generated by the protestors.

In addition to those who were protesting, many supported in other ways. Many did so by promoting the events on social media. Others provided care by supplying needs such as food, water, and in many cases—bail money.

Many jeered. Many mocked. Many disparaged.

Yet still the protestors marched on.

What could possibly motivate them to continue in spite of so much negativity and in spite of the cynicism of the age that says the problem is too huge, too overwhelming, for anyone to change anything?

I think it was because of love.

The fourth week of Advent is the week of Love. What greater sign of love than God sending us Jesus, Immanuel, God with us?

There is a verse in the story of Jesus’ birth that stands out to me as one of the greatest proclamations of love and faith in all of Scripture.

Luke 1:26-38:

Six months later in Nazareth, a city in the rural province of Galilee, the heavenly messenger Gabriel made another appearance. This time the messenger was sent by God to meet with a virgin named Mary, who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David himself. The messenger entered her home.

Messenger: Greetings! You are favored, and the Lord is with you [Among all women on the earth, you have been blessed.]

The heavenly messenger’s words baffled Mary, and she wondered what type of greeting this was.

Messenger: Mary, don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God. Listen, you are going to become pregnant. You will have a son, and you must name Him “Savior,” or Jesus. Jesus will become the greatest among men. He will be known as the Son of the Highest God. God will give Him the throne of his ancestor David, and He will reign over the covenant family of Jacob forever.

Mary: But I have never been with a man. How can this be possible?

Messenger: The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also as the Son of God. It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God.

Mary (deciding in her heart): Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me.

Did you catch that? “As you have said, let it be done to me.” An older translation of the Bible says, “May it be to me as you have said.”

May it be to me. Let it be done to me.

Such a powerful statement of love, trust, faith, and willingness.

Think about Mary for just a second: she is young. Probably the same age as my daughter—13. She has never been with a man. But she is engaged to one. A young woman. Engaged but not yet married. About to get pregnant.

In churches in 2014 that’s scandalous. But in the synagogue culture of this day and age? Mary is having her life put on the line. Literally. Joseph could stone her. And in the whacked out, patriarchal society of that day, anyone in the town who felt so compelled could have had her stoned to death.

Let’s see if we can grasp this: a teenager, unmarried, pregnant.

Oh yeah, and the baby is going to be the Savior of the world.

Now I understand adolescence, albeit just a little bit. (And I probably understand it in other people’s kids better than in my own.) A 13 year old Mary is probably a little bit more mature than a 13 year old today. The way kids were taught and trained was a little bit different then. But still, at 13 Mary was just beginning to enter society as a woman. She was starting to develop her own identity a little bit. But now, she is having all of that normal development scrapped.

She is being called to be a mother. Under scandalous conditions. To a child that is the Messiah.

And she says, “Let it be done to me.”

Mary knows she may be jeered. She may be mocked. She may be disparaged.

But Mary marches on.

What could possibly motivate her to continue in spite of so much potential negativity and fear?

I think it was because of love.

This brings us to our song for this week: Little Drummer Boy. The song tells a story so simple that it is endearing:

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum.

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a King, pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

I play my drum for Him.
So to honor Him.

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum.

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
When we come, me and my drum.

Written by Katherine K. Davis in 1941, the song did not become popular until 1958. However, it became so popular that as she neared the end of her life, Davis said the song was overplayed. It was only one of over 600 works she composed.

The song tells a simple story: a young boy travels with the Magi to see this new king. The young boy is moved by the extravagant gifts given that he is compelled to give something as well. But he has nothing to give.

Except pouring out his heart as he plays the drum.

He may be jeered. He may be mocked. He may be disparaged.

But still he marches on.

What could possibly motivate him to continue playing his drum while in the presence of wealthy people who have just lavished expensive gifts on a newborn King?

I think it was because of love.

Do you want to know where I see love on display?

At the Paramount Theater last week, I saw several young people on stage dancing and singing to express joy about the birth of our Savior.

At FaithWorks, Ray has been coming and tending to our garden just to make our space look a little nicer.

Last weekend at the Christmas Store, Jodi, and Tim, and Mike, and so many others showed up to help people shop and wrap their presents.

Every Wednesday, there are people standing behind the table serving us food at Freedom Fellowship. And then another crew of people steps up and helps clean up after us.

I see love when people decide that instead of doing the most amazing thing they can think of, they simply do what God has given them the ability to do.

There is an interesting link between the Little Drummer Boy and the Virgin Mary. It is believed Davis was basing her song in part on a French legend of The Juggler. In that story, a juggler performs his craft in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary. According to the legend, the statue was so pleased with the performance that it smiled at the juggler.

In our song, the little drummer boy played his heart out for the baby Jesus. And Jesus smiles. This song is fiction. It tells a story. But I believe it is a story that teaches us an important truth: when we show our love by using our gifts to honor Jesus, He is pleased.

I continue to be reminded that Advent is for the people who don’t know how the story ends:

The drummer boy didn’t know how his song would be received.

Protestors don’t know if any lasting change will come about.

Mary didn’t know how Joseph, or her family, or her village would react.

Yet still they march on.