Good King Wenceslas

He went out on the feast of Stephen.


A Christmas Carol, that actually doesn’t have much to do with Christmas – St Stephen’s Day is actually celebrated on December 26. However, there are parts of this story that we can learn about the nature of Christianity from.

When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know’st it, telling, Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”

Wenceslas saw a man out in the cold, gathering fuel for his fire. He immediately asked his page if he knew who he was and where he lived. He wanted to find out more about him. Why was he out at this time? Was he far from home? These questions immediately went through his mind.

“Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither: Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”

On hearing that he lived a good league away (about 5.5km), he decided to make him his guest. He orders his servants to bring food and wine, and pine logs. Food and wine to warm himself up and fuel himself, and pine logs for the fuel that he was collecting. Wenceslas had this at hand, easily accessed for him. The man probably couldn’t have collected that much fuel in a week (I like to think, the amount isn’t mentioned). Wenceslas provides it to the man as a gift.

“Mark my footsteps, good my page. Tread thou in them boldly Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted; Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.

When the winter night gets colder, and the page doesn’t know how he can go on, Wenceslas takes the lead, and tells his page to follow in his footsteps to escape the cold.

That to me is one of the most important passages in the song: In his master’s steps he trod. To me, it tells me that when the going gets tough, when I don’t know if I can go on, all I need to do is follow in my master’s steps. When I follow in the steps of Jesus, the path is made easier. The tough conditions are still all around me, but the heat from the footsteps that I step into makes it easier to go on.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

We all love a song that puts the moral right in the very last line. When we do bless the poor with what we have – whether we are wealthy and have gifts to give, or whether we have time in which to give, when we give this away we ourselves find blessing.

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