Stacked and configured in the form of a Christmas tree, our drum tree serves as a Christmas reminder that God calls us to march to the beat of a different drummer, Howard says. (Photo provided by Barry Howard)
A unique item sits in First Baptist Pensacola's sanctuary amid all of the Christmas decorations.
The poinsettias are ablaze with holiday red, and the crèche is in the window for all to see. The Advent wreath is in place and we are on our countdown toward lighting the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve.
Among the poinsettias, the wreaths and the candles, there are numerous Christmas trees adorned with ornaments, Chrismons and white lights.
Our campus is colorfully and beautifully decorated. And in addition to the traditional green Christmas trees, there stands a drum tree.
You heard correctly - a drum tree! A tree-shaped display made of assorted historic drums.
Vick Vickery, our esteemed Scoutmaster emeritus, assembles this drum tree each year out of 34 percussion instruments from different eras in history. Included in this display are replicas of the rope drum used in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
Historically, these instruments were crucial for conveying instructions and maintaining morale, for in the days prior to advanced telecommunication, soldiers were trained to listen carefully for strategic commands encoded in the resounding beat of the drummer.
Our drum tree reminds me of "The Little Drummer Boy," the song about a boy who gave of his meager talent by playing the drum for the Christ child.
There's an interesting story behind this popular song. Introduced in the U.S. in the 1950s, this memorable holiday carol made popular by Bing Crosby was actually based on a Czech tune, "Carol of the Drum," composed by Katherine K. Davis in 1941 and later recorded by the famed Von Trapp Family Singers in Austria.
The more familiar "drummer boy" version details the fictional but meaningful tale of a young boy who approached the manger with nothing to offer but his drum.
However, as the boy began to play his drum, his unique gift brought a smile to the face of the infant.
Like the wise men in the biblical narrative, the drummer boy brought his gift to the newborn king.
Treasures we might deem to be the contemporary equivalent of gold, incense and myrrh are not the only gifts you can present in honor of Jesus.
As you finalize your Christmas shopping, perhaps you might consider offering something that costs you a little more of yourself, a contribution from your own pool of talent or giftedness.
Now, stacked and configured in the form of a Christmas tree, our drum tree serves as a Christmas reminder that God calls us to march to the beat of a different drummer, receiving our formative cues and motivation from the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus.
Romans 12:2 teaches, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
While the default values of our culture may prompt us to spend irresponsibly, to consume disproportionately and to hurry frantically, our faith calls us to march to a countercultural cadence.
Among many other things, this cadence will lead us to work for the common good, to pray for our enemies, to welcome the stranger and to serve the underprivileged.
During this celebrative and reflective season of the year, you and I are invited to invest our best gifts, tangible and intangible, in ways that express our love and loyalty to the One born in Bethlehem.
Barry Howard serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida, a leadership coach with the Center for Healthy Churches (CHC) and a board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Barry's Notes. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @BarrysNotes.