What a Blessing!
By Rev. Alicia Randolph Rapking
As I write these words I am enjoying my own personal observance of the second day of Christmas. Because the “Twelve Days of Christmas” actually begin on Christmas Day, this is day two, the day when the “true love” gives two turtle doves. It is also known as Boxing Day in Canada and the UK and Wren Day in Ireland. For me, it is observed as the Feast of St. Stephen and I find myself singing “Good King Wenceslas” throughout the day because the story in the song takes place on the Feast of Stephen, the second day of Christmas.
All day long, I know that I will be singing these words:
Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shown the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.
The story of this centuries old Saint Wenceslas has intrigued me since I was a child and first learned the carol. The story is powerful, about how a king, who had all kinds of servants to do his bidding, would be moved by the plight of a poor man, struggling to gather firewood on a cold, harsh winter night. He could have sent any number of people to go help the man, but instead it was in his heart to help. Wenceslas was compelled to help this man, to know his story, to make his life and the life of his family easier.
A page, a young boy working in the court of Wenceslas, knew the story of the man, his poor plight, and where he lived—by St. Agnes’ fountain. So the King and the young boy set out on that cold winter night, to brave the elements, to risk freezing, in order to help a poor man.
Each year that I have served as the Director of the Parish House, I am more and more aware of how so many people are concerned about the plight of the poor. Each year, I could easily be discouraged by the increase of families that we have coming to Crosslines, Inc. for help. Each year, I could easily be discouraged by the amount of families that need extra help during the holidays. This year we offered extra holiday meals to well over 1400 families and we served over 400 meals on Christmas Day. Each year, I could easily be discouraged by how the problem of poverty in our country, in our world, is not solved.
Truthfully, each year, there are moments that I am discouraged and I am tired because it feels like no matter how much we are able to do, there is still so much that isn’t accomplished. This year has been particularly difficult.
So, on the second day of Christmas, in the quiet of the early morning, I have my own reflection time brought about by the singing of this carol, in my heart, and remembering the story of Saint Wenceslas and I am blessed to remember and give thanks for all the saints that have come forward to help with the holiday distributions and the Christmas Day Dinner. My heart fills with gratitude.
We could not have accomplished so much this year without the blessing and guidance of God, first of all. We end the year with all of the meat for Thanksgiving and Christmas paid for, which is no small feat since it takes almost $20,000 to provide this staple of both holiday meals. We received all of the extra food that goes along with the meals through so many people and groups. Individuals, churches, school groups, civic groups, businesses, and individual family food drives brought in all the extra items that were needed. What a blessing!
Our staff and regular volunteers have been faithful and kind throughout the past two months as they always are. I am grateful for them all year, but especially during this holiday time because they are so patient and loving. What a blessing!
Area businesses and individuals funded our Christmas Day Dinner before we even got together for the first planning meeting. We had all that we needed to provide the best food and to make Engle Hall joyful and festive! What a blessing!
A special gift this year came from the UM Women of the Reger Chapel UMC. All year long they worked hard to provide a special gift for our Thanksgiving Meal packages. On the first day of distribution, they brought in hundreds of handmade dish clothes that they had knitted and crocheted for our neighbor families. What a blessing!
Each year during the months of November and December we rely upon volunteers to help distribute. For the 23 days or so in November and December that we give out holiday food we need an extra 6 or 7 volunteers. Every day, extra people came to help. Sometimes we knew they were coming, sometimes we didn’t know. Wesleyan students, civic groups, church groups, and people who just wanted to help came and gave time and effort, smiles and best wishes. What a blessing!
As the time came for preparing for the Christmas Day Dinner, I caught what I have named “the cold of the century.” I have never been so sick for so long with what I thought was just a simple cold. I was anxious for Christmas Day. As usual the expertise of Debbie Huber, Bill Nicholson, and Carol Meese brought together all that we needed for the planning and preparations. We had nearly 80 volunteers on Christmas Day itself and numerous volunteers on the prep days including the ProStart class from B-U High School! What a blessing!
So, on this second day of Christmas, the feast of Saint Stephen, I find myself counting my blessings, reflecting on the gifts on God, and thanking God for all of you who, like Saint Wenceslas, just want to make life a little easier for those who find it difficult.
The rest of the story of Good King Wenceslas is that he and his page ventured forth in the cruel, harsh winter night to bring gifts of food and fuel to the poor man who lived by St. Agnes’ fountain. Being a small boy, the page had a very difficult time trudging through the cold, harsh night, but Wenceslas, seeing the boy’s difficulty, took the lead and urged the page to follow, stepping where Wenceslas had already broken the snow and blocking the wind somewhat from hitting the boy. In this manner they succeeded in their mission.
The last verse sums up the lesson of the story of this carol and these are the words that fill my heart today as I thank God for all of you:
Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the 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, while God’s gifts possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.feast
We all possess gifts from God. Let us all be a blessing to others!
To God alone be glory!