What Can I Give Him?
One of the most beloved legends of Christmas is the story of “The Little Drummer Boy.” When the Christ-child was born, according to the story, many beautiful gifts were brought to the manger, gifts of great value and splendor. But one small boy was very poor and he had nothing to offer to the Lord. This made him very sad. Then he thought: “I know what I can do. I can play my drum for him.” And so he did—”pa rum pum pum, pa rum pum pum. ” He played with all the love in his heart. And as he played, so the legend tells us, the Christ-child smiled, showing that at Christmas the gift of love is the best gift of all.
You see, it was not so much what the drummer boy did as how and why he did it. The real key was not in his drum playing—I’m sure there were better drummers around—it was in his spirit, his attitude of love, his willingness to give of himself. Those were the things that made the Christ-child smile. And they still do!
From the time the Wise Men brought their gifts to the manger, Christmas all over the world has been a time of giving—gifts to each other, gifts to those we love, gifts to the less fortunate, gifts to neighbors, co-workers, and the church—even in many cases, as at my house, gifts to the dog and cat! But you know in recent days as I have been mulling over this whole phenomenon of gift giving at Christmas, my mind keeps drifting back to the image of the Little Drummer Boy and to the Wise Men bringing the gifts to the Christ-child at the manger. I found myself grappling with this question”—What can we give to the Christ-child? What are the best gifts you and I can bring to the manger on this Christmas Eve? Let me make a list and check it twice…
First, we can give Him our penitence.
Here’s where we start, first on the list. It’s our penitence, our sorrow for our sins. That is what the Advent and Christmas seasons underscore for us so dramatically—how much we need a Saviour! This world and it’s goods are not enough. Apart from God, we are incomplete! We cannot make it by ourselves. We need help. We need a Saviour.
Recently, a young man filled out an application for admission to college. One of the questions read: “What are your personal strengths?” The young man wrote: “Sometimes I’m trustworthy, loyal, cooperative and kind.” Then the form said: “What are your personal weaknesses?” He answered: “Sometimes I’m not trustworthy, loyal, cooperative or kind.” We can all relate to that, can’t we? That’s why if we have any spiritual sensitivity at all, we approach the manger of Christmas on our knees in the spirit of penitence.
No doubt, you are aware of the fact that in the little town of Bethlehem there stands a small cathedral built over the spot where it is believed that Jesus was born. Behind the high altar in that church you can descend some stairs down into the small cave lit by silver lamps. That cave is believed to have been a stable and a star embedded in the floor of the cave marks the spot where supposedly the manger stood on that first Christmas night. However, there is one stipulation for going into that church and into that cave. You have to stoop to get in. The door is so low, you can’t go in standing up. The same is true of the Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Saviour, you have to get on your knees.
Several years back, during a summer sabbatical, I was privileged to study in the Holy Land. One day during my time there, I. set out walking the six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It was such a thrill for me to make that journey and to come to the sacred place where Jesus was born. An old man, who was a Palestinian Christian, was standing in front of that Church, which is called The Church of the Nativity. As I approached the door, he waved to get my attention. He said, “Are you an American?” I said, “Yes I am.” He then asked, “Well, are you a Christian?” I said, “Yes I am.” He reached over and took my hand in his. He smiled warmly and said: “Welcome home! Welcome home!”
He was right you know. Bethlehem is the birthplace, the homeplace of our faith. It was there that the dream began. It was there that God came “to visit and redeem His people.” The old man was right in another sense as well. When I stooped low to enter the church and then knelt before the star marking the birthplace of the King of Kings, I offered to Christ all the sins and sorrows of my life. Suddenly I felt the forgiving embrace of Christ’s Spirit and I heard Him whisper in my ear: “Welcome home! Home where you belong!” There we exchanged our gifts. He took from me the sins I offered and He gave to me the gift of salvation. What can you give Him this Christmas Eve? Give Him your penitence.
Next we can give Him our commitment.
What better gift could we offer to Jesus Christ this Christmas than to commit ourselves—body, mind and spirit, prayers, gifts and service—to Him, to His church, to His cause in the world.
Have you heard the story about the fellow who went to the bus station in Athens, Georgia to buy a ticket to Greenville, South Carolina? The clerk sold him the ticket but told him that the bus would be late. So while he was waiting, he began to explore the bus terminal. He came upon a machine which had a sign on it reading: “For 25 cents I will tell your name, your age, your hometown and other interesting information.” Curious, and somewhat skeptical, the man dropped a quarter in the slot. Out popped a card. It read: “Your name is Bill Jones. You are 35 years of age. You live in Athens, Georgia. You are waiting for a bus to Greenville, South Carolina. The bus is delayed.” The man was dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe it. He decided to try it again. He put in another quarter and another card came out. It read: “As I told you, you are Bill Jones, age 35 from Athens, Georgia headed to Greenville, South Carolina and your bus is delayed.” Incredible! Now he was really fascinated. He thought: “I’m going to stump this machine.” He ran across the street to Woolworths and bought one of those Groucho Marx plastic glasses with the thick eyebrows and mustache. He also bought a wig and a cane. He then hobbled back over to the bus station and popped another quarter into the machine. Out came a card and it read: “Well, it’s you again. Your name is still Bill Jones. You are 35 years old from Athens, Georgia, trying to get to Greenville, South Carolina—and while you were horsing around, you missed your bus! “
Many people are like that today. They spend all their time and energy horsing around and they miss the bus! They never make the commitment. One of the best gifts we can give the Christ-child this Christmas is our unflinching, unwavering, unflagging commitment—commitment which will boldly take up the torch of the Gospel in our lives, hold it high and carry it forward. Let me ask you as pointedly as I know how: “Are you really committed to Jesus Christ with every fiber of your being or are you just horsing around the station?”
A few years ago a small town called Hope, Alaska was destroyed by a. flood. No lives were lost, but there was tremendous property damage. One of the bishops of the church went there to see how he might help. When he arrived, he found the devastated town completely deserted. However, in the center of what had once been the main street of the little town, someone had placed a sign. The sign read: “The Community of Hope has moved to higher ground. “
That’s what the miracle of Christmas does for us. It moves our hope to higher ground. It calls us to a more excellent way of living. It encourages us to reach for the stars in life. Even though evil will sometimes make loud noises and even deliver to us painful blows, we can be confident if we are committed, because we know that ultimately God and His people will win. So what can you give Christ this Christmas? Give Him your commitment.
There is but one other thing we can give Him.
In making the list and checking it twice, I realize that there is just one more thing—the most important thing of all—which we can offer to the Christ-child in the manger. I could preach for days and never say it better than Christina Rosetti said it in a little poem she wrote. I end this Christmas Eve meditation with her words which are so simple, so beautiful, so simply beautiful.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring Him a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part.
Yet what can I give Him?
I give Him my heart.
This Christmas, that’s all He wants!