We all know the story of The Little Drummer Boy about the orphaned drummer, Aaron, who befriends animals and is lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time so he decides to play for the baby Jesus since he has no other gift. Of course it has a deeper place in all of our hearts to be that simple. Heck, even Bing Crosby & David Bowie discussed the place this story holds in our annual Christmas ritual with our families.
…but what’s with the tears?
The story of The Little Drummer Boy always has made me tear up in the final scene when he meets the baby Jesus. As long as I can remember I’ve had this same reaction. I remember being embarrassed as a boy however despite watching it hundreds of times I’d still mist up and get a rush of the chills through me as Jesus smiles at him. And it’s not just the Rankin-Bass Christmas special. Even books and the songs, whether the Harry Simeone Chorale or Bing & Bowie’s version always brings out the same emotion in the final scene. [trivia: the song was first recorded and released by the Trapp Family Singers of Sound of Music fame]. I’ve also had this same reaction as an adult and both of my boys recognize this as my favorite Christmas story and song. They both now love it too. Yet, I still cry and I’ve seen my sons sniffle too.
It’s not that I was raised very religious as we went to Catholic Church every Sunday growing up thou I in no way “knew” God or had a personal relationship with Jesus. Maybe it had a bit to do with how close the boy got to Jesus as it felt to me as if their was the whole Catholic hierarchy of priests, bishops, cardinals and the Pope between me and God. But that wasn’t it.
It certainly is a heart wrenching story as the boy’s parents are brutally murdered by men and he’s left alone with pain and hatred in his heart. He carries that anger through his young life and it grows as he is kidnapped and forced to perform his songs against his will. But that wasn’t it either.
There was something about that interaction between Aaron and “the babe”. Remember, Aaron’s life is falling a apart after his best friend, Baba the lamb, is struck by a chariot and is dying. He sees the Wise-men and hopes they can save his friend however one of the Wise-men tells Aaron that he is only a mortal king but there is King among kings who could save his friend, gesturing towards the baby Jesus.
Three years ago was the hardest Christmas of my life. I was ten months sober and separated from my wife and still very raw emotionally. There were no pink clouds in my first year of sobriety. However I was holding on tight to my two boys, my sobriety through my AA program, and my growing relationship with God. I was all-in with God and boy was I feeling the Reason for the Season that December. I remember being snuggled in bed with Brody, my then five year old son, and reading the Little Drummer Boy book to him and feeling that same rush of emotion. Misty eyed when finished I grabbed my phone and pulled up a clip from the movie of the last scene. By the end of the scene tears rolled down my face and I had to stop myself from sobbing.
I had the psychic change. I experienced the magic of AA. The fellowship of AA and the value of the meetings are more powerful than any bond I’ve experienced. No one can reach you in the eye of the addiction hurricane and help pull you but another drunk. And the meetings got me through my first hours, days, weeks, and months of sobriety. Going to a meeting every single day, several some days, truly helped me get to the next day sober. The hours talking to others was so helpful. The meetings, my sponsor and my sober friends, the newcomers, the old timers still are so important to my sobriety. But what Saved me was God. I have no doubt about it yet I wouldn’t have signed up for it nor truly believed it was possible. Yet God took it away from me.
As I’ve written about I tried, using all the will power I could muster, to quite drinking for a year and a half and could not stop. I would achieve months and then it would overtake me and I’d drink again. I was attending AA regularly but still couldn’t stop. I kept telling myself and even admitted to my wife, Sarah, that I wasn’t doing it right. I wanted more than anything to never drink again. I knew all that I had to lose if I kept drinking but I just couldn’t stop. It wasn’t until I took that last drink, the bottom fell out of my life and I was left living alone with stitches over my eye in the nightmare that had become my life. Yet it was the best thing that could have happened to me. To quote Dicken’s as it is Christmas morning:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, …”
I had officially hit rock bottom. Bounced. And slammed back down several times again.
I had no where to go but to God. I was told to read the Big Book (which I’d had in the back of my jeep unread for 36 months) and follow the steps. I rolled out of bed onto my knees every morning and prayed to start my day, begging for God to take it away from me. I had no idea if He would. I don’t even think I had faith that He would. I didn’t understand how God could take it away. But the book said to do it and I was desperate. So every cold, New England morning in February and March of 2014 I rolled from my bed to the floor and prayed.
So when the Wise-man gestured towards Jesus, Aaron questioned “the babe? But I do not understand.”
The wise-man replied, “It is not necessary to understand. Just go to Him.”
So he picked up his broken lamb in his arms and desperately begged for help. Just as I picked up my broken life in my arms and begged for help. Both of our prayers were answered.
Brennan Manning referred to us recovering alcoholics as saved sinners and Ragamuffins. One of my favorite quotes from Brennan is, “the Ragamuffin knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven.” The order is so important. I have such strong faith in God today and every day wake up, pray, and aim to live like Jesus. It’s not so God will accept me. I do it because He already did. He saved me when I was at my worst. God took away an addiction. The obsession towards my next drink was gone. I looked back at the worst, loneliest three months of my life, full of hurt and self pity, hatred for myself and accountable to know one for the first time in over ten years when I got home alone at night….yet not once did I consider drinking. The only answer I had was the prayers. God took it from me.
At my What’s Good About Today meeting yesterday on Christmas Eve so many in the room talked of God. A newcomer Matt questioned whether his neighbors thought he was crazy for seemingly talking to himself each night as he smokes cigarettes outside praying out loud to God. Rodney, who regularly declares, “God save me a drunk, God save me a drunk, God save me a drunk.” And then there is Rick, reminds me of Christopher Lloyds character Reverend Jim from the classic TV show Taxi, just celebrated two years sober. One woman this week admitted that Rick used to scare her as he consistently peppers his comments with colorful four letter words. Yet he’s the one whose comments I look forward to most as there’s always wisdom in there sorounded by some chaos. Almost every time Rick speaks he’ll bewilder at how that despite of himself it’s God’s grace that keeps him sober. He always leaves me thinking.
Yesterday at WGAT when it came to my turn to speak I highlighted that so many that day credited God for their sobriety. We’re not sober because of our willpower or strength. We had sobriety because we hit a point so weak and desperate that we made the decision to surrender. We gave it to God.
…and “the babe” saved us.
I can’t tell you why this story brought me to tears long before I was Saved. We Ragamuffins ask and God saves us from our addiction. He saves us from our broken lives consequences from our own self will and a broken world. Whether an addiction, depression, history of abuse, guilt, resentment or fears we each carry a heavy, broken lamb. Who isn’t a Ragamuffin, a saved-sinner in need of God’s grace? Aren’t we all sinners carrying our broken lamb desperate for God’s grace? I am a Ragamuffin no different than The Little Drummer Boy. Aaron was also a Ragamuffin.
Don’t take my word for it. Note the first line in the clip, as the chariot driver screams at Aaron, “Out of my way Ragamuffin!”
Merry Christmas and may God bless us, every one!