Our annual Carol Service is a joyous opportunity for members of the SMUS community to gather and reflect on what the holiday season means to every one of us, while enjoying beautiful music from our Junior, Middle and Senior School students.
Another highlight of the Christmas Carol Service is the Middle School reflections. Rev. Keven Fletcher works with a different group of students every year to write and recite reflections on what Christmas means to them. This year’s group consisted of Seung, Amira, Georgia, Marcus, Nadine, Mareya and Connor. They, as a group, explored the what it means to give gifts at Christmas, as it relates to the popular song Carol of the Drum.
Below are two of the group’s reflections.
If you really must know, there are a few presents that we wouldn’t mind finding under our trees this year. One of us wants a golden retriever, while another expressed interest in an e-reader. There was also mention of a blue Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang with two white stripes through the middle; and a driver, because it’ll be a while before any of us gets a licence. We won’t mention names, but another of us would like to find in his stocking a membership card into the Illuminati. But that’s not the most disconcerting wish: one of us wants his dog to be given the gift of speech. You heard correctly, a talking dog.
What’s got us thinking about gifts is a piece of music sung by the Grade 6 choir in the service. It’s called Carol of the Drum, or more commonly, the Little Drummer Boy. It’s not a story that you’ll find in the bible, but since it was recorded back in 1955 by the von Trapp family, pretty well everyone has covered it: Bob Dylan, Faith Hill, Pink Martini, even Jimmy Hendrix has his take!
And you can see why the song appeals. A young boy is encouraged by the wise men to see the newborn baby, Jesus. The wise men have all brought lavish gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh; but the little drummer boy has nothing to offer on that scale. Absolutely nothing. Knowing that he has nothing, he could have walked away. He could have thought to himself, “I’ve got nothing to offer. Why am I here? Maybe I should just leave.” But he doesn’t. He stays, he plays his drum, and Jesus smiles.
Which got us to thinking about the gifts we bring; the ones we wish we could lavish on those around us. We didn’t hold back.
One of us wants to give people airline passes so that we can learn more about the world and expand our viewpoints. Perhaps, another suggested, this could include a return trip to Mars. Back on Earth, one of our group wishes that she could provide enough food and clean water for everyone, everywhere. Yet another wishes that she could give someone she knows good health; that the person would be cured of the sickness that holds him back. These are pretty lofty gifts.When we imagine giving these sorts of presents we think we’d experience a kind of joy that would bring some of us to tears; that powerful; that awesome. But we know that these are beyond our reach, and not just because of our age.
So we ask the same question as the drummer boy: What gifts shall we bring?
Here’s the thing about gifts: when you receive one, it sits on the top of your mind for a day, two days. We feel happy, special, maybe even overjoyed… for a few days. And every day after that the excitement slips away. Eventually, we get used to the new gift and it becomes a part of our normal life. More often than not, what stays long-term is that desire for the “next” gift. Don’t get us wrong, we’ll be thrilled when we get each gift, those moments when everyone’s watching and those eager small breaths escape our lips; all of that is real. At the same time, when we’re outside of that moment, we know the excitement will pass and a part of us will be wondering about the next gift.
When giving a gift, it’s altogether different. It’s hard to explain the feeling: there’s happiness, excitement. It’s like a warmth in our body, when we see a massive smile on the person’s face. One of us talked about the difference between receiving and giving like this: receiving a gift is like getting a top layer of warmth on our heart; whereas giving a gift fills our heart with love, kindness, and respect.
When we give a gift, we’re not focused on ourselves anymore. We’re more open to the thoughts and emotions of others. We’re more inclined to think about what went into the moment. And yet there’s no sense that the moment is about us. It simply isn’t. Instead, it’s about the recipient. In thinking of them, we feel hope, curiosity, excitement, eagerness, and within ourselves we somehow feel more whole through creating just an extra hint of happiness for someone else.
And the part of the act of giving that stays with us? Instead of anticipating when we might receive our next gift, we anticipate when we might next give of ourselves. The whole offering of a gift reminds us of the difference we can make in the lives of those around us. And the gifts we offer don’t have to be lavish to be meaningful.
This thought takes us back to the little drummer boy and what he offered: a simple sharing of his talent, of his ability in a way that was completely focused on the recipient, not himself. Sometimes we wish we could wrap up an emotion for someone. For that person who’s sick or feeling a sense of despair, we’d like to wrap up a box full of hope. For that person who’s feeling a little overwhelmed with life, we’d like to put a bow on peace. For that person who feels a little disconnected, wondering about their relationships, for that person we’d tie a ribbon around belonging.
Of course, that isn’t possible, but what is possible is our ability to give of ourselves; give of ourselves in all those small ways that build another person’s sense of hope, peace, and belonging.
We can be that gift. Any of us. No gold or frankincense required. No fancy boxes or ribbons. Just our presence and our willingness to share something of ourselves. And like the little drummer boy, we might discover that our offering is worth more than we imagined possible.
Watch the entire service on SMUSTube.
See more photos of the Christmas Carol Service at the SMUS Photo Gallery.