The Little Drummer Boy

Isaac woke with a start.  But what had awakened him?  He had heard a noise, something unfamiliar in the sound of the night.  He struggled to focus and he heard it again.

Full consciousness returned and with it came the realization that the noise he had heard was voices.

He crept from his sleeping mat to the edge of the camp.  He could see two figures in the darkness.  The tall one was Lucas but the smaller one was a stranger.  He crept closer until he could hear what they were saying.

“You’re mad man!” Lucas sounded angry.

“No, sir, we are not mad.  All the signs point to the new King being in Bethlehem,” said the stranger.  “So to Bethlehem we must go.”

“Bethlehem!”  The word escaped Isaac’s lips before he could stop it.  He hadn’t meant to say that out loud but the name of the town where he had been born has surprised him.  He clamped a hand over his mouth hoping against hope that Lucas hadn’t heard him.  But he had.

Lucas turned to where Isaac lurked behind the nearest tent.

“What are you doing there boy?” yelled Lucas.  “This is nothing to do with you.  Now go back to your bed and mind your own business.”

Isaac knew better than to argue with Lucas.  He had done that once and learned just how cruel Lucas could be.  Lucas had been so angry he had almost broken Isaac’s hands.  As it was, his hands had been so damaged from the beating that he hadn’t been able to play his drum for two months.

Isaac had been with Lucas and the travellers for almost three years.  Lucas said they had found him half dead on the side of the road – just him and his drum.

Isaac recalled how he had been travelling with his parents when they had been set upon by robbers.  Something hit him and he didn’t remember anything until after he woke in the back of Lucas’ cart.  Lucas said they had found him almost dead on the side of the road – just him and his drum.

According to Lucas there had been no sign of his parents.  But Isaac didn’t believe his parents would have fled and left him there alone.  There were times he wondered if Lucas hadn’t had something to do with the robbers who had attached him and his parents.

Lucas’ wife, Sarah, had cared for him, bathed and bandaged his wounds and nursed him until he was well enough to be put to work.

Everyone had to earn their keep.  Isaac’s job was to help care for the animals.  Sometimes Lucas would let him play his drum when people came to hear Lucas sing and the others play.

But Isaac still remembered his parents and how happy they had been together.  They came from Bethlehem and he wondered if maybe they were still there, waiting for him to come home.  Or were they still searching for him.

Isaac had asked Lucas once if they could go to Bethlehem but Lucas had gotten angry.  That was the time Lucas had hurt his hands.  Isaac had never asked Lucas about Bethlehem again.

So for now he would do as Lucas said, or at least appear to do so.  But somehow he would find out why the stranger and Lucas had been talking about Bethlehem.

Isaac walked around behind the tent and carefully crept to across the camp to the next tent.  Now he was behind Lucas and he prayed he was far enough away not to be seen.

“But you should come with us,” continued the stranger.  “It’s not that far.  And the new King IS there.”

“I don’t like the old one, so what makes you think I’d want anything to do with the new one!” Lucas turned and walked away from the stranger.

The stranger turned to walk back to his friends.  “He wouldn’t even let me speak to the others,” he said.

“Never mind Caspar,” called his friend.  “At least you tried to tell him.”

The men began to walk toward their camels.

Isaac watched Lucas walk back to his tent and then he made his decision.  As quickly and quietly as he could, he crept back to his sleeping place.  He didn’t own much, just his drum.  He carefully pulled his drum from its night time hiding place and crept back to the edge of the camp.  He could no longer see the strangers, but he headed in what he thought was the direction they had taken.

Isaac secured his drum tightly across his back and then set off on his quest to follow the strangers.

He wasn’t sure how they would react to his following them, especially after the one named Caspar had heard Lucas tell him to mind his own business, so he was careful not to get too close.

But apparently he had not been careful enough.  As Isaac passed an outcropping of rocks, a man jumped from behind them and grabbed his arms.

“What are doing following us?” the man demanded.

“P-p-p-please sir, I-I-I didn’t mean any harm,” stammered Isaac.  “It was just that I head you tell Lucas you were going to Bethlehem and I wanted to go with you.”

“Why do you want to go to Bethlehem boy?” gently asked the man named Caspar.

“I think my parents may be there,” replied Isaac.

“Your parents?  But wasn’t that man back there your father?” asked Caspar.

“No sir, that was Lucas.” Said Isaac and proceeded to tell Caspar and his friends his story.

“Well now, that’s an interesting story,” said the first man.  “Should we let him come with us?”

“Why not,” said a third man.  “Welcome boy.  I’m Mechior, this is Caspar and that there is Bathasar.  Now what should we call you?”

“I’m Isaac,” he replied.  “Thank you for letting me travel with you.”

“Let’s be on our way then,” said Bathasar.

The group mounted their camels and continued their journey to Bethlehem.

Isaac rode with Caspar and during the journey Caspar told him they were Magi.  He explained to Isaac about the new King they were travelling to Bethlehem to visit.

Isaac listened in awe to Caspar’s story and he began to grow just as excited about seeing the new king as he was about the possibility of finding his new parents.

“But how will we know where to find this new king?” he asked.

“Well, you see that bright star up there?” asked Caspar.

Isaac nodded and Caspar continued, “We are following that star and it will lead us right to the place where the new King can be found.”

About that time they came upon some shepherds tending their sheep.

The Magi stopped to enquire the nearest place to find a meal and bed for the night.

“I’m Benjamin, and this is my brother Adam.  We don’t have much, but if you’re happy to camp out then you’re welcome to join us for the night,” said the first shepherd.

“We would be honoured,” replied Caspar.

Over the meal that night Caspar, Melchior and Bathasar explained to the shepherds the reason for their journey to Bethlehem.

“Are you on your way to see the new King?” asked Benjamin.

“Yes,” replied Bathasar.  “We have been studying the heavens and our studies show that God’s chosen Saviour would be found in Bethlehem.  We go there to pay our respects to the new King.”

“We saw angels,” stated Benjamin.

“That we did,” added Adam.  We were out minding our own business, making sure the sheep didn’t get into no mischief when suddenly this bright light appears in the sky.

“We were pretty scared,” admitted Bejamin.  “But then this angel appears and tell us not be afraid. He says, ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’.

Then Adam continued, “Yeah, and then all of a sudden this gang of angels appears in the sky and starts singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’.”

Isaac stood by listening to this exchange, his eyes wide open.  He couldn’t believe he was on his way to see the same child the shepherds spoke of.  A child God sent angels to tell the shepherds about.  A child God sent a special star to guide the Magi and help them find him.

After a good meal and a restful night the Magi and Isaac were ready to resume their journey.

“You’re on the right path,” Benjamin told them.  “But the child and his circumstances may not be what you expect.”

“Thank you for your kindness,” replied Caspar, “and the meal, but we had best be on our way.”

The group continued their journey following the star until they entered the outskirts of Bethlehem and the star appeared to stop above what appeared to be a workshop.

“This can’t be right Caspar,” called Bathasar.  “Are you sure we followed the right star.”

“Yes,” replied Caspar.  “There is no mistake.  The star is telling us we will find the new king in this simple dwelling.”

“It doesn’t seem right to find a king in such a simple dwelling,” said Isaac.

“Ah, but this is no ordinary king Isaac,” said Mechior.  “This king is chosen one.  God’s promised Saviour.”

Isaac’s eyes opened wide.  He wasn’t exactly sure what Mechior was talking about, but now he was even more excited to meet the new king.

The Magi and Isaac dismounted from their camels and approached the workshop.

The door was open and the scene before them unusual.

A man was at a work bench.  He appeared to be smoothing down the legs of a chair.  He was a carpenter!

Behind the man a doorway led to another room  The curtain was pulled aside and through the open doorway Isaac could see a woman nursing a child.

The man approached the Magi, “I am Joseph the carpenter.  Can I help you?” he asked.

“We are looking for the new King,” answered Capsar.  “We have followed God’s star to your dwelling and accordingly the new King is to be found here.”

“Ah, you must mean Jesus,” replied Joseph.  “He and my wife Mary are through here.”

The Magi followed Joseph into the small room behind the workshop.

Then Isaac watched as the Magi bowed before the child and handed gifts to the child’s mother.

“Please accept this gift of frankincense for our new king,” said Bathasar.

“And this gift of myrrh,” added Mechior.

Finally it was Caspar’s turn.  He knelt before the child lying in the manger and said to the mother as he handed her his gift, “A gift of gold for our Lord’s Saviour.”

The woman smiled at Caspar and nodded her head as she accepted his gift, just as she had done with the other two Magi.

The man standing behind her smiled at the Magi and then spoke, “My name is Joseph, and this Mary.  We thank you on behalf of our Lord God and this special child he has blessed us with for your generosity.  This child is Jesus, God’s Saviour of His people.”

The Magi bowed before the child.  Isaac wasn’t sure what he should do so he knelt next to Caspar.

Isaac looked at the gifts the Magi had given the child.  He wished he could give something too, but he had nothing to give.  Nothing but himself and his music.

Very quietly he rose to his feet and timidly approached the woman.

“Excuse me,” he stammered.  “I would like to give the king a gift too, but all I have is my drum.  Would it be okay if I play him a song?  Do you think he would like that?”

“That would be lovely,” replied Mary.  “I’m sure he would enjoy it.”

So Isaac took his drum and began to softly play for the baby Jesus.  As he played, the baby smiled and waved his little fists.

When Isaac finished the baby had fallen asleep.

“I think he really enjoyed that gift Isaac,” said Caspar as he patted the boy on the shoulder.

“Do you really think so?” asked Isaac.

“Yes, and we enjoyed it to,” added Joseph. “You play well young Isaac.  Thank you for honouring our son in this way.”

“We should be leaving now so the young king can sleep,” said Mechior.  “We’ll make camp outside and see you tomorrow morning.”

The Magi found shelter in a nearby inn that night and Isaac stayed with them.  He fell asleep with a smile on his face as he thought of the baby Jesus smiling at him, and the fact that Caspar had promised to help him look for his parents the next day.

© 5 December 2007

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Filed under Christmas, Short Stories

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