Why do we sing about King Wenceslas at Christmas? The carol celebrates a good king who left the comfort of his privileged position to brave the harsh winter conditions to provide for the needs of the poor. Sounds a bit like Jesus!

The good king was not a mythical figure; he was a real king in Bohemia in the 10th century. He had a tragic life. Both his mother and grandmother were murdered when he was a child, and he himself survived several assassination attempts. But rather than being embittered, he became a model Christian ruler.

His compassion for the poor is still celebrated 1000 years later in the carol. But it was not just a single man who was rescued by his efforts on that famous night when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. Wenceslas lived in a culture that left their unwanted babies lying exposed beneath the brightly shining moon (though the frost was cruel). It was less clinical than modern abortion facilities, but the effect was the same. King Wenceslas outlawed child abandonment and criminalized abortion before being murdered at 22 years of age by rival heathen elements in his own court.

At this Christmas season we celebrate his example. We hear what he said (in the carol) to his companion as they go out to care for the poor: "Mark my footsteps goo, my page; Treat thou in them boldly!" May there be many who boldly follow his footsteps, who are willing to endure the blast of the storm to reach out to the poor and helpless - especially the helpless, unborn children who have none to defend them unless a King Wenceslas emerges again.

But there is another king - the one in whose footsteps Wenceslas followed. He's still out in the cold gathering unwanted babies. His name is Jesus.

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