Walking in the Snow with Wenceslas
Is More Than Merely a Carol

The Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslas  , is not one of the best-known carols of the season.  Regardless, the message of that carol should be understood and followed.   Wenceslas was a Bohemian king of what is now the Czech Republic.  His reign was brief; his own brother murdered him in A.D. 929.  However, his rule was characterized by an uncommon concern for the poor, needy and disadvantaged of his kingdom. 

Interestingly, in 1853, John Mason Neale wrote the lyrics to this carol.  Neale had Thomas Helmore write the music.  This same type of collaboration between the writer and musician also occurred in 1818.  Franz Gruber wrote the lyrics and Joseph Mohr wrote the music to the best known of all Christmas carols, Silent Night.

Description: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-vJ0vTahRc9U/UrIGg61qGmI/AAAAAAADGmo/g9JIUFyIV-k/s640/Good+King+Wenceslas+drawn+by+Horace+Knowles.jpg

King Wenceslas walking in the snow with his page

According to tradition, Wenceslas was walking through the snowy woods with his page on the Feast of St. Stephen, which is the day after Christmas.  The king saw a peasant at a far distance and asked his page who that peasant might be.  The page knew the peasant and told Wenceslas that he was very poor.  Wenceslas, moved by the peasant's poverty, ordered a banquet for him.  

Bring me flesh, and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither;
Thou and I will see him dine,
When we bear them thither.

Wenceslas knew that there was neither rank nor privilege among any of God's children.  All people, whether rich or poor, should have the necessities of life.  It fell upon those who have the resources to provide for those in need.  This king of Bohemia knew his responsibility for the less fortunate. 

As the monarch and page began their rescue mission, the page began to complain about the chilling winds of the Bohemian winter.  The page didn't want to go on because of the chilling condi­tions and walking in the snow.  Wenceslas responded to the page's discomfort.

Mark my footsteps, good my page!
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.

The wise and caring king marked the path for his page.   Essentially, he said, "Follow in my footsteps!  I'll lead the way."  Wenceslas wasn't giving orders from the warmth of his castle; he was out there in the bitter elements caring for others.  At this Christmas season, we too must get out there among those suffering whether near or far and help them as we can.  We need to follow in the footsteps of Wenceslas. 

In addition to getting out there and becoming involved, we need to understand something important about helping.  Once we get involved even when it is uncomfortable, we will discover what the page of Wenceslas discovered in that Czech forest on that bitter cold and snowy day:

In his master's steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
Which the saint had printed.

Doing the work of caring for the disadvantaged of our cold and cruel world produces, for all those who are willing to help, a strange and comforting warmth.  As the page assisted Wenceslas in their wintry work, the page himself experienced warmth.  Thus ended this carol.

Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.

What is true for Wenceslas' page can be equally true for each of us in our lives.  If we take the first steps to go out into the wintry world in which people live their lives, warmth will be our blessing.  We will be comforted by the knowledge that we have relieved some suffering for some who were lost and alone in their battle with cruel wintry elements like unemploy­ment, poverty and broken families. 

Those who are less fortunate than you are nonetheless your family for they dwell on this same small planet with you and me.  Besides this, your happiness is directly tied to their happiness.  There­fore, all of us are related to each other.  You can't truly be rich if another person is poor.  Your own riches are linked to the elimina­tion of the hurting of others.  There is no such thing as being rich with the poor surrounding you.  The poor in the final analysis control your happiness and richness!  Therefore, starting this Christmas and continuing throughout the New Year, each of us needs to walk in the snow with Wenceslas.  Remember, "Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing."

This video is of the carol, Good King Wenceslas.

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