Once upon a time there lived, in the faraway deserts of Arabia, a very poor boy. His mother had died when he was still very young, and his father was the guardian of a well where the caravans of travellers stopped to slake their thirst on their way across the desert.
Then great crowds of men would arrive with many camels, and everyone was busy getting water from the well.
This was how the poor man earned his living. But it was not well paid, and so he never had enough money to buy any toys for his little boy.
The guardian of the well loved his little son, and he sighed on seeing him without toys. He wanted his boy to be able to entertain himself like any other child. So one day he made him a drum from a sheep’s skin stretched over a small barrel that had lost its bottom.
From that day onwards, the little boy was never seen without his drum. During the day, while his father sat next to the well, he played on the drum alone in the tent that was their home. He also played it to greet the caravans that came to the well for water.
At night, when the desert was totally silent, the boy made up the songs he would sing the following day as he played his drum. And some of them were quite beautiful!
All over the desert the little boy became known as ‘the drummer boy’.
One night, a big, mysterious star appeared in the desert sky. The star was much brighter than any other, and it seemed to move in the direction of a nearby village called Bethlehem. Most of those that saw it were frightened by it. But the little drummer boy was not afraid.
This star that shone so high in the heavens was too beautiful to be a bad sign. It seemed to announce something good was happening on the earth. So, taking up his drum, he played a song in honour of the star, just as he did when greeting arriving caravans.
The animals were adorned with gold and precious stones and walked more majestically than other animals. They were carrying heavy loads, full of marvels. Three kings preceded them.
As soon as the cortege stopped in front of the tents and the animals had finished drinking, the kings explained to the people, who pressed around them, that they had been travelling for many days.
They had seen the star in their far away lands and had understood—because they were Magi—that it shone in order to guide them to the stable where the Child Jesus had been born.
The small boy was not a wise man like the Magi. He did not know that this Child Jesus was the Messiah announced by the prophets, but he listened very attentively to everything being said.
He was moved by the idea that this Child Jesus was so poor that they had to lay Him in a manger where the ox and ass eat. Fortunately, the Kings were taking Him gold, incense, and myrrh as presents.
The little drummer boy wanted to go to see this Child Jesus himself. He wanted to take Him something. But…he was poor and had nothing to offer.
Suddenly, the little boy remembered his drum. Why not go and play for the Child in the manger? Why not go and offer Him, in the name of all poor boys, the most beautiful of his songs?
The little boy left with the Kings to Bethlehem.
As soon as they arrived at the stable, he started to sing to the Child, Who smiled as He lay in between the ox and the ass. And then, oh marvel, the angels started singing along with him!