Music and the Spoken Word: Good King Wenceslas

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given Dec. 22, 2019.

I’m standing at Wenceslas Square, in the heart of Prague, near a statue of the Duke of Bohemia, affectionately known as good King Wenceslas. A caring Christian ruler and patron saint of the Czech Republic, Wenceslas has come to represent kindhearted generosity and selfless giving. And because these attributes are at the heart of Christmas, it’s not surprising that good King Wenceslas is also the subject of a beloved Christmas carol.

The carol is based on a story set during a feast day shortly after Christmas. But King Wenceslas is not feasting; instead, he looks out the window onto the wintry landscape and discovers a poor man, gathering whatever meager firewood he can find in the deep snow. Filled with compassion, Wenceslas calls his page and tells him to bring food and wood for the destitute man. Then, instead of sending his page on the errand alone, Wenceslas leaves his comfortable home and goes with the page into the cold night to deliver the gifts personally.

At one point, the snow becomes so deep and the wind so fierce that the page wonders if he can carry on. But Wenceslas invites him to walk in his footsteps, and as he does, the page finds strength to endure. Together they brave the storm and fill the poor man’s humble home with generous gifts.

Aren’t we all somewhat like Wenceslas’s page? We joyfully accept the invitation to generous giving that comes with the Christmas season. But sometimes meaningful giving, the kind that really makes a difference, requires sacrifice, and that can be difficult. When this happens, we can find strength as we walk in the steps of the Master Giver.

After all, as he once said, “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).

This is why we honor good King Wenceslas more than a thousand years later: because he reminds us of the kindness and generosity of another king — one who also chose to be a servant, who lived among the poor and the weary so that he could give them relief. This is the king whose birth and life of service we celebrate at Christmas.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules