Countdown to Christmas: Day 21. "Good King Wenceslas"

Good King Wenceslas

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, while God's gifts possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.

Here's a jolly and catchy Christmas tune that requires some backstory. Wenceslas was not a king; he was just awarded the title posthumously. And the melody is taken from a song celebrating spring, so some believe it should be an Easter song, not a Christmas one.

That said, Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, lived in Czech in the 10th century. He was celebrated for his generosity and rumored to go out into the snow, barefoot, to feed the local poor. In this last verse, the saint's servant is ready to quit, he can't find the strength to keep slogging through the snow. But Wenceslaus paves the way and his page follows, literally, in his footsteps.

Then the writer drives the moral home: Because God has given us gifts, we are compelled to share with the poor. When we do, we get blessed along the way.

In Matthew 25, Jesus says if we want to find him, we should look among the poor, the marginalized, the under-resourced: the "least of these." Mother Theresa is believed to have said, if you ever find yourself in a spiritual rut, a season where you can't seem to find God, go spend time with the poor. You are guaranteed to meet Jesus there.

Christmas tends to find most people more prone to financial generosity than other seasons. After all, we tend to spend a legitimate chunk of change giving people we already know stuff they don't officially need. So, if I walk out of the mall, having spent hundreds of dollars on my friends and family, I feel like I should at least throw some change in the red Salvation Army kettle.

But Wenceslaus's song calls us beyond given guilt-driven tokens; it calls us to bless the poor. What does it look like for you and your family this Christmas season? It is time in service to the under-resourced? Is it a financial gift? What's your walking barefoot in the snow moment this Christmas? If you don't have one yet, can you consider something before year end? Or put something on the calendar for the new year?

Proverbs 14:21, 31 It is a sin to belittle one's neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor. Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.

Proverbs 19:17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord— and he will repay you!

Proverbs 22:9 Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.

Craig Custance