01 - The Little Drummer Boy
Originally written for the 1999 Hanson Advent Calendar.
"Silly Zachariah," Isaac said, "the Messiah would not want a gift from you."
Jordan, his other brother, also laughed at him, saying, "what could you possibly have fit to give a king?"
Zachariah watched as his brothers walked away snickering. They had always been mean to him. He was the youngest child in the family, and being the smallest was not easy. The other boys picked on him, too. It was bad enough that he got it at home!
Normally, Jordan and Isaac needed no reason to make him feel bad, but today was different. They were laughing because Zachariah had told them he wanted to bring a gift to the new Messiah, born in Bethlehem. His masters, the Magi, were traveling there under orders from King Herod to deliver their own presents. Zachariah wanted to take one as well.
"I cannot show up empty handed," Zachariah had told Isaac. "He is the One sent by God to deliver us. I must present Him an offering."
"We are simple peasants," Isaac had answered. "I assure you anything that we did have would not be appreciated by someone such as He. Our Father knows the sincerity of your heart – a gift is not necessary."
It was then that Zachariah began his quest to find something he could give to the young Jesus. That had been a day or so ago, and he still had not come up with anything, although a number of his ideas had already been put down by Isaac and Jordan. In a moment of desperation, Zachariah had suggested he give the Messiah his dog Shekel.
"What would our King do with such a flea-bitten animal," Jordan had asked through suppressed giggles.
Shekel had been with the family ever since Zachariah was born. They were the best of friends. Somehow Shekel always found him when he was crying after being teased by his brothers. The gentle dog would never fail to lie down at Zachariah's feet, miraculously taking away all the pain just by being there. Zachariah could not think of anything he cherished more than his best friend on the earth, and that was the type of present you gave to your King – something special to you.
Then, however, he realized that Shekel was not a very practical gift. He was fussy around strangers, and would only let Zachariah comb out the tangles in his coarse fur. After searching through all his worldly possessions, he had given up hope. He had nothing to give.
He took his dilemma to his master, who had always been good to him. "Zachariah," the gentle man had responded, "I admire your sincerity and your pure heart. Truly you are a gift in and of yourself to our Messiah. A material gift is not necessary, nor is it expected from you; it is as your brother told you, our Lord knows your intention."
"What are you to give our King?"
His master showed him the beautiful gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh lain out on an ornate table. Zachariah's eyes grew wide as he ran his fingers gently over the riches.
"If sincerity and a pure heart are all that is required from our King," Zachariah began, "then why must you present such treasure to Him?"
His master laughed gently. "From a man who holds such a place in our society, these things are expected. You, Zachariah, are a servant. No one requires this of you."
Zachariah cocked his head. "But aren't we all servants of our Master?"
The old man laughed again. "You are as wise as you are sincere, my young friend. Now go and finish your work."
Zachariah had gone away from that conversation unsatisfied. What his master told him had made much sense, but he still felt obligated to bring a gift. He had heard the stories told by the elders of a promised Deliverer – the Messiah. He would be the One to save them from the Romans. All of his short life – a mere twelve years – had been spent awaiting the arrival of their King.
And to someone as young as he, twelve years was a long time. Now that it had finally happened, that the Messiah was here, he wanted to show his joy and his overwhelming gratitude to their Father.
"I simply must bring him a gift," Zachariah said to himself as he walked back to his own tent. He sat down on his bedroll, hugging his knees close to his body. "What am I to do, my Lord? I have nothing to give. My brother and master say it is not necessary, but I feel differently."
He felt tears come as he stared across the tent. His eyes scanned his little pile of belongings he'd brought along on the trip. When he focused on one particular item, his heart leapt. He stood from his bedroll and crossed the short width of the tent.
Zachariah leaned over, picking up his small drum and set of drumsticks. He looked at them wide-eyed, as if the light from God were shining down upon them. The answer had been with him all the time! Zachariah and his brothers were musicians – very talented ones. They had entertained many of their master's acquaintances on numerous occasions.
"Of course, my Lord," he said happily. "I will play my drum for Him!"
Zachariah rushed off to tell his brothers, who did not share his enthusiasm.
"You are going to bang a drum for the Promised One?"
"You have gone mad, my brother!"
Once again, they had rushed off, laughing at him the whole way.
"I will show them," Zachariah said. He turned and walked back to his tent to practice.
Later that evening, as their caravan entered Bethlehem, Zachariah was still playing his drum. Jordan and Isaac had threatened him several times if he did not quit, but their master scolded the two of them for it. The gentle old man said the drums had a soothing rhythm, something to help break the silence of their monotonous trek. The master did, however, ask him to stop playing when they entered the city.
Zachariah was so very tired as they walked the dark streets. He tried desperately to suppress a yawn, but it finally won out. They had come such a very long way. His body was exhausted, his eyes heavy. He looked forward to rest, but there were more important things ahead of them at the moment.
Just when Zachariah thought he could not walk another step, his master approached a small dwelling. It was a very modest home, no place for a King. "Are you sure that this," Zachariah asked, motioning to the house, "is where Messiah lives?"
His master gave him a gentle nod, shushing him quietly. Giving the door a gentle knock, the wise man stepped away and waited patiently for an answer.
Puzzled, Zachariah stood back in silence. This was certainly no home for a Messiah, though he did remember the stories of Him being born in a lowly stable. His master had never been a man to lie, so if he said that their King lived here, then he must! Zachariah looked to his master again, a smile of admiration on his lips. The man looked back at him and nodded, still waiting patiently for the door to open.
Zachariah, on the other hand, could feel his heart nearly beating out of his chest. He wanted to see the Messiah…to worship Him! Oh, he was so close now!
I will play my drum for Him, he thought. I will play my best for Him!
Zachariah watched excitedly as the door to the small house opened, a kindly young man appearing to greet them. His name was Joseph, he told them, ushering them in.
"Good evening, friends," Joseph said. "Welcome to our home." He embraced each of the Magi as they introduced themselves. Zachariah and his brothers waited patiently for their turn.
"And these," his master said, "are our young friends: Isaac, Jordan, and Zachariah."
Joseph approached and embraced each of them as well, smiling broadly as he did it. "Come," he said, "meet my family."
He led them into a smaller room, where a beautiful young lady was holding a baby. The small child cooed contentedly.
"This is my wife, Mary," Joseph said, placing his hand on her shoulder, "and my son, Jesus." The woman smiled angelically.
The Magi stepped forward and knelt before the child. As they did, each one of them presented their gift. "Our finest gifts we bring unto You, our Lord," one of them said. "To honor You, our King."
They bowed their heads, offering prayers of thanksgiving to God. When they were finished, they stood and stepped away. Mary smiled at them and spoke for the first time since they had entered the room.
"We are humbled by your visit, and by your offerings," she said.
Little Zachariah, no longer able to contain himself, stepped forward. He held tightly to his small drum. "Greetings to you, good woman," he said, his voice sounding meek.
His master placed a gentle but stern hand upon his shoulder. "Young Zachariah," he said, "please be silent."
Mary shook her head. "Do you have something to say, my little friend?"
Zachariah nodded sheepishly.
"Then, please," Mary said to his master, "let the boy speak."
He looked up and saw his master smile. "Very well, then," the man said, taking his hand off Zachariah's shoulder. "Speak your mind, child."
Zachariah swallowed hard – his throat was very dry.
"Well," he said, "I would like to offer a gift of my own."
He heard his brothers force back a chuckle.
"Zachariah," his master said, "you have no gift to give the Christ child."
He shook his head. "I know I did not have a gift originally, my master," he responded, "but I have found something that I wish to give."
Mary smiled at him. "Such a lovely boy, you are! I am eager to see what you have brought to us."
"I am a poor boy – a simple servant. And I have no real gift of gold or riches to offer. I do, however, have a drum. My brothers and I are musicians. I wish to play my drum for you."
Zachariah waited. Surely his master would stop him from playing. He turned and found his master with tears in his eyes, a wide smile broadening across his worn face. He nodded, giving Zachariah a supportive pat on the shoulder.
He turned to Mary, who nodded also. Zachariah stepped closer and knelt down upon one knee. "Praise be to our Father in heaven," he said," for He hath provided us a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. I offer up to Him my gift of gratitude."
With that said, Zachariah stood and began playing his drum. The gentle rhythm filled the tiny house with radiant waves of warmth and beauty. He closed his eyes and concentrated on his playing, feeling the loving arms of the Father wrap around him in a loving embrace. He continued on for several minutes, the drum singing beautiful songs of adoration and praise to their King.
Then, he stopped. He knelt again before the child and then stood, moving back to his place with his brothers. As he looked upon them, he noticed a look of admiration on their faces. They each embraced him, telling him how proud they were of him, and how sorry they were for having made fun of him.
Then, he looked back toward Jesus.
The child was smiling at him!
He felt himself swell with joy as he looked also upon Mary and Joseph, who were also smiling. Zachariah's master approached and gave him a warm hug.
"I am proud of you, Zachariah," the man said.
"Huh?" Twelve-year old Zac Hanson sat up in the bed from a sound sleep.
"Yeah, what," he said, looking around for the source of the voice. It was his mother.
"Yes, ma'am," she said sternly. "Get up. It's almost time to leave for Grandma's."
He stopped to think. It was Christmas Eve. They were going to his Grandmother's house. He must have fallen back to sleep after getting his stuff together.
"Okay, Mom," he said.
"Don’t forget your drumsticks, Zac. You and your brothers are playing at the Church tonight."
He walked over to his desk and picked up his favorite pair of drumsticks. Staring at them intently for a moment, something came back to him.
"I'll play my best for Him," he said.
"What's that, Zac?"
"Nothing, Mom," Zac said, dropping the sticks into his duffel. "Nothing at all."