Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen / When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Today is the Feast of Stephen. It’s one of the oldest and most widely recognized saint days in the Christian calendar. According to some sources, today’s commemoration is even older than Christmas. And at the end of today’s service, we will sing that famous old Christmas carol about good King Wenceslaus.
The story of the carol is that King Wenceslaus saw a poor beggar out in the snow on the day after Christmas, gathering twigs and stick for his fire to keep warm. And the King had compassion on the poor man and called his young servant to his side to bring him meat and wine that the King wanted to take to the beggar. The young servant is a little boy. And so as the King and his servant are walking through the snow (deep and crisp and even) out to the beggar, the little boy gets weary and is struggling to wade through the deep snow.
It’s then that the King tells the boy to walk in his footprints in the snow. And according to the story, every spot the King stepped miraculously emitted heat to melt the snow.
Good King Wenceslaus is a sweet old English legend about the Duke of Bohemia, not actually a king, from the tenth century who was well-known for his tremendous compassion for the poor and many acts of generosity. In that way, he’s kind of like the historical St. Nicholas. You can read all about this historical Christian saints on Wikipedia later, if you like. I encourage you to do so.