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Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Today’s Reading | Luke 2:1–20
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (NRSV)
“Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen . . .”
I hope you are singing the familiar Christmas carol to yourself this Christmas Day. It is a particular favorite of mine, although it doesn’t mention Bethlehem or Mary or Jesus. It is based on a legend from Bohemia—now the Czech Republic—about a tenth-century king whose name, Wenceslas, is now rendered as Vaclav (remember the leader of the peaceful revolution in that county whose last name was Havel?).
Why do I love this carol despite its lack of reference to baby Jesus? Of course it is a great tune, but I also think it is because it embodies what Christmas means to us and reflects what at its best Christmas calls us to.
Good King Wenceslas follows the commands of Jesus: “Bring me flesh, and bring me wine. Bring me pine logs hither. Thou and I will see him dine when we bear them thither. Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.”
He feeds the hungry, cares for the least, gives warmth to the cold, and lives into the call of his Master, whose birth we celebrate today.
For those who are cold,
For those who are hungry,
For those who are lost,
For those who have lost,
This Christmas Day I pray, O Lord. Amen.
Written by Calum I. MacLeod, Executive Associate Pastor and Head of Staff
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