"Good King Wenceslas"

David Bast

READ : Mark 10:35-45

Whoever would be great among you must be your servant. (v. 43)

Today is Boxing Day in Canada and the United Kingdom, but on the calendar of the medieval church it was St. Stephen's Day, when the feast of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was celebrated. This is also the day when “Good King Wenceslas,” according to the traditional carol, looked out his castle window and saw a poor peasant trudging through the deep snow trying to gather enough fuel to keep warm. Wenceslas was a 10th-century ruler in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) who was noted both for his humility and for his many acts of personal charity.

His legend was recounted in an 1853 carol by the English hymn writer and translator John Mason Neale, whom we also have to thank for “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” As Neale tells the story, Wenceslas calls a page boy to his side, finds out where the peasant lives, then personally sets out with the boy into the freezing weather to bring firewood, food, and drink to the peasant's cottage. The lesson comes in the song's final lines:

Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,

You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.

Shortly before his death Jesus called his disciples aside for a lesson in true greatness. The world's big shots like to throw their weight around and let everyone know how important they are. That's not how it is in the kingdom, says Jesus. There greatness is expressed in humble service.

Good King Wenceslas understood that. I wonder if I do.

Audio Link: http://goo.gl/whld02


Help us to be servants.