Michelle Martin

Joyful noise

December 20, 2018

“The Little Drummer Boy” is usually a quiet song, almost a chant against a simple, steady beat.

The reality of a little boy with a drum? Not so much.

That’s not news, but the point was driven home — pounded, really — at an early Christmas gathering with my sister and her kids at my mother’s house.

We watched football and ate and decorated the tree, and the younger kids had great fun with a game that probably was called “Jump on Frank.” Because really, what else do you do with a teenage cousin?

But by far the biggest hit of the day was when the kids unearthed the old preschool band toy that was my sister’s, once upon a time. It has a plastic drum with a strap for easy carrying while you march around the house, and you can store the harmonica and cymbals inside.

The youngest child, my 6-year-old nephew, took possession of the drum and proceeded to march from bedroom to living room to dining room to kitchen and back. One of his sisters joined in with the harmonica, Teresa grabbed the tambourine and then the cymbals went from child to child as they played hide and seek.

Whoever was It would clang the cymbals every time they said a number as they counted — and they were counting to 60. Every time.

It could be enough to make people sympathize with the Grinch and his complaints about the “noise, noise, NOISE, NOISE!”

It certainly was enough for all the adults to suggest that someone should get a toy just like that for her kids to take home, since they were having so much fun with it.

But that’s the point, really. All of the kids were having fun — even the older ones who sometimes took time away from the pack to play cards with the grown-ups.

We are reminded on Gaudete Sunday that we are supposed to rejoice. We are supposed to make a “joyful noise” to the Lord. We’re not supposed to sit quietly, not all the time. Certainly not if we’re 6 years old and there’s a drum handy.

Even better if there are plenty of older relatives around to listen to it. Sometimes noise is the natural order of things.

“The Little Drummer Boy,” underneath all its sentimentality, is about how giving your best — no matter how small that is — is all that is asked. Great gifts come in small packages — just like God coming in the form of a small, weak infant, one so vulnerable that his family had to flee to another country to seek safety.

Family gatherings like our early Christmas show it doesn’t always take an expensive gift to make a kid happy. Sometime all it takes is a 30-year-old plastic drum.


  • christmas
  • family life