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Our drum tree serves as a holiday reminder that God calls us to march to the beat of a different drummer, receiving our formative cues and motivation from the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus.
The first summarizes the journey of the Magi who traveled from the East in search of the mysterious child of promise:

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11)

The second text, which I readily confess does not typically invoke Yuletide emotion, is Romans 12:2, which boldly challenges believers to live out our faith with subversive authenticity: 

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Treasures construed to be the contemporary equivalent of gold, incense and myrrh are not the only gifts you can present in honor of Jesus. As you embark upon your Advent journey, perhaps you might also consider offering something that costs you a little more of yourself, a contribution from your own lode of talent or giftedness.

Do you recall the legend behind the musical story of “The Little Drummer Boy,” the song about a boy who gave of his meager talent by playing the drum for the Christ child? Introduced in the United States in the 1950s, this memorable holiday carol made popular by Bing Crosby was actually based on a Czech tune, “Carol of the Drum,” composed by Katherine K. Davis in 1941 and later recorded by the famed Von Trapp Family Singers in Austria.  

The more familiar “drummer boy” version details the fictional but meaningful tale of a young boy who approached the manger with nothing to offer but his drum. However, as the boy began to play his drum, his unique gift brought a smile to the face of the infant.

Throughout this holiday season, colorful and thematic decorations will adorn many of our church campuses—iconic symbols such as a Christmas tree, an Advent wreath, a manger crèche. Peculiar in the décor of the church I serve is a drum tree, which is constructed annually in our church atrium. Vick Vickery, our veteran Scoutmaster, assembles this drum tree each year out of 34 percussion instruments from different eras in history. Included in this menagerie are replicas of the rope drum used in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Historically, these instruments were crucial for conveying instructions and maintaining morale, for in the days prior to advanced telecommunication, soldiers were trained to listen carefully for strategic commands encoded in the resounding beat of the drummer.

Now, stacked and configured in the form of a Christmas tree, our drum tree serves as a holiday reminder that God calls us to march to the beat of a different drummer, receiving our formative cues and motivation from the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus. While the default values of our culture may prompt us to spend irresponsibly, consume disproportionately and hurry frantically, our faith calls us to march to the rhythm and cadence of a different percussionist, to be cheerful in giving, gracious in receiving and intentional in living.

During this festive season of the year, believers of all ages are invited to invest our best spiritual gifts and our prime tangible gifts in ways that express our allegiance and alignment with the One born in Bethlehem.

Barry Howard serves as senior minister at First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

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