If I had to choose a favourite Christmas carol, I’d be torn between O Holy Night and The Little Drummer Boy. The former evokes the majesty and grandeur of Christ’s birth; the latter is more sentimental and maybe even childish.
Every year, it seems, someone somewhere writes an article lamenting the strong association of Christmas and children. ‘Christmas is for adults!’ they cry, ‘Forget the kiddy sentimentality!’ I get what they’re saying, but still I think they’re wrong.
Instead of wresting Christmas away from children, I think it’s better for us grownups to remember the Christmases of our childhood, and to behold Christmas again through the eyes of children.
Children are perfectly capable of recognising the significance of Christ’s birth in the midst of Christmas presents and Santa Claus. For all the time they spend admiring the Christmas tree, they’re as likely to admire the nativity scene too. And they have little trouble comprehending the idea that the small child lying in the manger is the Son of God, King of Kings, and Prince of Peace.
Apart from that, as Pope Francis recently observed, Christmas teaches us tenderness. In the same way, children teach us tenderness. So seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child amplifies that lesson of tenderness.
That’s why I like The Little Drummer Boy. That’s why, too, I love this telling of the Christmas story, An Unexpected Christmas: