Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel
"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather
"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good 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
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
Neale published this carol in 1853. He was an Anglican priest who had been much influenced by the High Church “Oxford Movement”. He co-founded an Anglican order of nuns, the Sisters of St Margaret, who still work with marginalised people around the world.
The carol retells a legend about Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, (907-935) who was made a saint because of his reputation for goodness. Whether there is any truth to the story in the carol no one knows, but it reminds us of one of the central messages of Christ, that his followers are called to serve others, and that worldly rank has no significance in the kingdom of God. The carol is very much of its time, however. There is no challenge to the structural inequality which leads to a king and a peasant having such different lives!
· How important is it to you that your celebration of Christmas should include some charitable giving? Is it an assumption you grew up with?
· What might make it difficult for us to resist the urge to over spend and over consume at Christmas? How can we make it fairer for everyone?
Bible Reading : What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6.8