“Good King Wenceslas”

Good King Wenceslas

“Good King Wenceslas” is a classic and popular Christmas carol about a king from Bohemia who journeyed through harsh winter conditions to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen, which is on December 26th. The most commonly sung version of the song was written by John M. Neale with help from his music editor Thomas Helmore in 1853.


The original lyrics were set to the melody of a 13th century Easter hymn called “Tempus adest floridum” (“The time is near for flowering”).  This tune was included in the 1582 hymn book Piae Cantiones  and was originally from Finland.

Wenceslas was a real person: the Duke of Bohemia, a 10th-century Christian prince in a land where many practiced a more ancient religion. In one version of his legend, Wenceslas was murdered in a plot by his brother, who was under the sway of their so-called pagan mother.

Following his death, Wenceslas became a saint and martyr revered especially for his kindness to the poor.

We are besieged each day with people who claim to need assistance but who are actually charlatans who seek to get riches from others simply by asking and appearing destitute.  We become numb to the plight of others because we are too afraid of being “taken”.  Realistically, however, if we do give to one who is really not needy, the fault is credited to them as sin. Our obligation is to give. 

Often, however, the people in need are not standing on the street corner with cardboard signs around their necks.  No, often the people in need are sitting near you in church, are in line at the fast-food chain, are looking at you in the hope that you can help them, but they are unwilling to let their guard down and express their need to you.

The cure for this dilemma – being a friend to others and becoming aware of the need that they have.  Jesus put it this way:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 22:37-39

In Luke 10:29-37 we read the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Jewish man was robbed and left for dead alongside the road going to Jerusalem.  The road was known for the bands of robbers who attacked travelers.  Three men passed by this poor man.  Two of them saw him and just left him to his misery, failing to help in any way.  One man traveling on this road was a Samarian, a sworn enemy of the Jews.  You would think that this man would pass on by and that the others would have helped their fellow man.  But, the Samaritan helped the Jew, taking him to safety in an inn and telling the innkeeper that he would pay for the care of the man upon his return.

In verse 36 Jesus posed the question to the lawyer:  “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 

The lawyer responded that it was the man who showed mercy, and Jesus said that he should “go, and do likewise”.  Verse 37.

Beloved, we are to be Jesus’ hands and feet. We are to “go, and do likewise,” just as the Samaritan man helped the traveler, we are to help those we come in contact with who may need our help. 

When there is a need, don’t depend on the other guy to take care of it.  You do it.  Pray about the situation and then let the Lord lead you as you minister to the one in need. 

Start with a smile.  That often will make all the difference in the world to someone who has not had the benefit of a smile for a long time.  Not a plastic smile that actually means “I’m too busy to do anything or talk to you so I’ll smile and that’s my good deed!”  No, smile and mean it.  Then graduate to speaking with the other person and soon you will know how to address their need.

The Good King Wenceslas did just that.  It was cold and he provided the peasant food and fuel for the fire. 

We can do that too.

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40

Father, forgive me when I have walked away from those who are in need, when I could have helped them if only I had desired to do so.  May I truly desire to help others as Christ has commanded, not for blessing to me but for glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let me know if you agree, like or want to comment. Thanks. .

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