Now that the Christmas season officially ended this past Sunday, I realize that the only thing about Christmas I don’t like… well, maybe, the only Christmas song I’m not particularly fond of is… “The Little Drummer Boy.”
With most things, I prefer the dramatic. I like things that carry weight – Christmas songs like “O Holy Night” and “Come, All Ye Faithful.” I also laugh imagining a kid banging a drum while poor Mary and Joseph are trying to soothe their child to sleep. I’d be embarrassed if the best I could offer them was plain noise. Instead, I want to be one of those Wise Men – kings who presented only the greatest to their newborn King. In personal prayer, I, too, want to give God the stuff that’s impressive, meaningful, holy.
Yet it’s funny… The other day, I was sitting in chapel, and the silence gave me a needed realization. In prayer, I often find myself being that drummer boy, only slightly older. My mind races, knocks on everything around, and makes lots of noise.
What was going on was this:
Next weekend, a group of guys I live with is travelling to Chicago to play in a major basketball tournament. My athletic prowess, unfortunately, makes me ineligible (*you decide what I mean). Still, one of the players mentioned that I should consider coming along. (Making decisions though – big or small – is tough and overwhelming for me.)
In prayer that evening, I was trying to focus on beautiful lofty things. But I kept being distracted, weighing out pros & cons of my trivial decision. Feeling frustrated, I actually decided to try talking about the distractions themselves and to let God into them.
“Lord, this is what I’ve been thinking about — I want to go. Well, kind of. I don’t know. It’d be great for community-building… Nah, I should stay, get ahead on work, right? You brought me here to study, and it’s just basketball… But, still… it’s only one weekend away. Do you think I should go…? Nah, I barely know the guy who’s coordinating the trip. And at this point, I bet there isn’t any room left…”
(Like I said, lots of noise.) But God was patient – always listening – quietly there with me.
I didn’t know what to do. But inspired with childlike boldness, I looked up and told God frankly –
“I don’t know whether I’m supposed to go or not … If You want me to stay, I’ll stay. But if you want me to go, You need to make it happen.”
That was it. No second-guessing, no take-backs. It was all in His hands.
For a moment, I was finally able to listen in real silence. Then I got up and headed over for dinner. After I finished eating I was about to head out, but one of my brothers came by and struck up conversation. We stayed for a half hour or so. By now, the room had cleared out, save for our table. I looked around and was again ready to call it for the night when the captain of the basketball team walked in, grabbed a bowl of cereal, and joined us at table.
[This past Sunday, we closed out Christmas by celebrating Jesus’ Baptism. The verse that stood out to me most from the Gospel was, This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. God the Father looks upon Jesus and announces to the world that 1. Jesus is God. 2. The Father loves Him. & 3. He’s well pleased with His Son’s existence.]
God isn’t a magician or a genie. He doesn’t make everything happen instantly nor does he grant every wish. In my life there are PLENTY of prayers God answered differently than hoped for, didn’t answer at all, or hasn’t answered (yet) – for better reasons than I can see.
But that night, after hearing me out, God answered my prayer. The Father provided for something seemingly insignificant because He loves His children, and nothing we give Him in sincerity of heart is ridiculous or petty.
Next weekend, I’ll be cheering on my brothers loudly and proudly, and I’ll be staying in the 3rd allotted guest room. (I should mention that the team captain said they just so happened to have one open spot left.)
… I don’t exactly know how the newborn Jesus reacted to the ruckus from the drummer boy. But I trust that as it was the best the boy could give, God listened, and He was well pleased to accept the gift.