Good King Wenceslas—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on December 8, 2021, based on 3 John 3-6 and Luke 6:38
It was selected by reader, EN: 
“Hymns and carols have always been close to my heart. This was a wonderful reflection.”


Scripture Focus: 3 John 3-6
3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Reflection: Good King Wenceslas—Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

In 921, the Duke of Bohemia (in modern Czech Republic) died when his son Wenceslas was only 13 years old, too young to rule. Wenceslas’ late grandfather converted to Christianity under the influence of Byzantine missionaries and his grandmother had seen to his education, so she was made regent in his stead.

At age 18, Wenceslas was made Duke of Bohemia and his reign was characterized by his Christian heritage. He became known for acts of charity and almsgiving, winning the admiration of his subjects.

Historian Cosmas of Prague wrote about Wenceslas in 1119:

His deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; rising every night from his noble bed, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

Wenceslas’ legacy helped shape the medieval concept of the righteous king, whose power is based on great piety in addition to regal authority.

Written by English hymn writer John Mason Neale in 1853, the carol “Good King Wenceslas” recounts one incident of love and generosity by the good king.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gathering winter fuel

The king orders his servants to gather food, drink and firewood and summons his page to help him deliver the goods to the poor peasant. 

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

As the weather worsens, the page insists he can go no further; the king suggests that the page simply follow boldly in his footsteps. Upon doing so, the page discovers that he is warmed by the sod where snow had melted under his master’s footprints.

The Christmas season often prompts many people to engage in acts of charity and kindness. There are toy drives, meals served in soup kitchens and generous donations made to notable causes, all our expressions of God’s love.

Unfortunately, however, our generosity usually ends on December 26th.

While the carol recounts only one incident at Christmastime, Wenceslas was remembered for a life of generosity and love for those in need.

We follow a Righteous King who lived his whole life as a servant. He invites us to simply walk boldly in his footsteps, serving others not only for a few weeks during the Christmas season, but consistently throughout the year.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Listen: Good King Wenceslas by Downhere
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 4(Listen 3:42)
Romans 2(Listen 4:13)

Readers’ Choice is Here!
Thanks for sharing your recommended posts from the last 12 months. We have loved hearing from you!

Read more about He Became a Servant — Love of Advent
Jesus is our perfect and complete picture of what God is like. He is still among us as one who serves and we are to be like him.

The King We Want

Scripture Focus: Zechariah 9.9-10
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! 
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! 
See, your king comes to you, 
righteous and victorious, 
lowly and riding on a donkey, 
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim 
and the warhorses from Jerusalem, 
and the battle bow will be broken. 
He will proclaim peace to the nations. 
His rule will extend from sea to sea 
and from the River to the ends of the earth. 

1 Samuel 8.6-7
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

John 19.15
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

From John: This post and poem were written several days before the shootings at Robb Elementary in Uvalde. We mourn and cry in anger and grief this week. We long ever and ever more for Jesus, the breaker of battle bows, to come. May our bows be broken and our stiff necks be bent. May our hearts of destruction become hearts of cultivation, our swords be melted to plowshares. May his peace come soon. Even now, Lord Jesus. Even now.

Reflection: The King We Want
By John Tillman

Zechariah’s vision of a coming king riding on a donkey is very familiar to New Testament readers. All the gospel writers include this detail. John and Matthew specifically quote Zechariah 9.9 and point out that Jesus fulfills this prophecy. However, this humble king wasn’t what many wanted. Many rejected Jesus then. And many still reject him now.

The King We Want
We want a king, we say
A king like other nations
With Solomon’s glitz and glamor
With Goliath’s sword and armor

I’ve sent a king, God says
Unlike any you’ve seen
Son of the Giant Killer
Yet rejected as your ruler

We want a king, we say
Exalted and victorious
We’ll hear his saber rattle
We’ll follow him to battle

I’ve sent a king, God says
A king not of this realm
Your lust for worldly power
Shows you mistake the hour

We want a king, we say
To make our city great
To make for ourselves a name
To not be scattered from this plain

I’ve sent a king, God says
You had no eyes to see him
He wept over your city
That the outcasts gained no pity

We want a king, we say
We’ll even take a bad one
Let him speak like a serpent coiled
Long as we can share the spoils

I’ve sent a king, God says
You had no ears to hear him
Of sin’s sting you must repent
Then my King will crush the serpent

We want a king, we say
A conqueror, triumphant
Crush our enemies who slight us
Crush the governments above us

I’ve sent a king, God says
He rode in on a donkey
My servants prophesied him
You rebels crucified him

We want a king, we say
To cast out the unworthy
Keep away those we despise and fear
Isolate us with those we hold dear

I’ve sent a king, God says.
Accepting any and all subjects
No repentant sinner he’ll exclude
And that, my child, includes you

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are the Lord, most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. — Psalm 64.9

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 9 (Listen – 3:01)
Matthew 6 (Listen – 4:35)

This Weekend’s Readings
Zechariah 10 (Listen – 2:11Matthew 7 (Listen – 3:31)
Zechariah 11 (Listen – 2:40Matthew 8 (Listen – 4:09)

Read more about The Ram and the Cornerstone
Jesus entered Jerusalem like Isaac’s ram on the mountain top. He rammed his head into the thorns…Jesus knew he would be rejected. His final actions ensured it.

Read more about Truth Unwanted
Jesus, you are the king, the gift, and the truth that the world does not want.

Already But Not Yet

Scripture Focus: Micah 4.3-4
3 He will judge between many peoples
    and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
4 Everyone will sit under their own vine
    and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
    for the Lord Almighty has spoken.

John 20.21-22
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Reflection: Already But Not Yet
By Erin Newton

The Israelites were rebuked for their idolatry, injustice, envy, theft, false prophets, and sexual immorality. They were about to reap the consequences of their sin, but God did not leave them in despair. This window of hope is a glimpse into the mercy of God. They would need these words in the hard days ahead. 

They were forced to be exiles. Suffering and warfare were before them. The mercy and love of God moved the prophet to declare that God will restore them in that day. The forecast of peace is a balm to those who know calamity is coming. 

It is a vision of a heavenly future: fair justice, cessation of warfare, peace. Fear is abolished. People can rest and sleep under the trees. Weapons of war are turned into agricultural tools. It is a transition from death-dealing to life-giving activities. 

In that day, peace will come. It was a future event, something for the Israelites to cling to as they persevered in suffering. It is sometimes called “The Day of the Lord” and usually depicts an apocalyptic time of worldwide peace and restoration under the reign of God alone. 

It is good to hope for the future reign of peace. It can be a comfort in times of turmoil to know that the world will not always be full of injustice and war. Death will turn into life. That day will come with the full restoration of peace and justice that we see in the end of Revelation.  Whispers of the future are scattered throughout the prophetic books. However, that day has not been entirely fulfilled. 

Even though we long for that day, do we just sit around and wait for God to intervene? What do we do today? It is a day that is already but not yet, partially fulfilled in the coming of Jesus and his death and resurrection.

John 20 tells us how Jesus breathed on the disciples and they received the Holy Spirit. Just like the breath that gave life in the Garden of Eden, new life is given to the disciples. They are then commissioned to go and give life to others. 

The commission of Christ demands that we cease combativeness and pursue restoration. We have an opportunity to bring a glimpse of this future peace into reality today. Jesus commands us to bring life now.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, you heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. — Traditional Doxology

Today’s Readings
Micah 4 (Listen – 2:33)
John 20 (Listen – 4:17)

Read more about God Is The Hero, not Us
We are separated from God by our sins, yet he is with us and longing for us at the same time. The already and the not yet are side-by-side.

Read more about Restoration Begins
Restoration begins with repentance. Exile and slavery are not the end for God’s people. They’re more like a restart.

First to Believe Without Seeing—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: John 8.52-59
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. 

John 20.3-9

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

From John: We are closing out this Easter week by looking back at two significant post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. One can’t read John’s gospel and come away thinking, “Jesus was a nice moral teacher. Too bad he died.” The passage from John 8 emphasizes that. John highlights claims that would make Jesus a lunatic or a liar specifically to encourage us to call him Lord. John also emphasizes that people can, do, and will believe in Jesus without seeing him.

Reflection: First to Believe Without Seeing—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman


Another “first” to note in the resurrection appearances of Jesus, is the first person to believe that Jesus was resurrected without seeing him.

After appearing first to the women and specifically to Mary Magdalene, Jesus appears to Peter, to Cleopas and an unnamed disciple on the Emmaus road, then he appears to some of the gathered disciples, and then again to the group of disciples when Thomas joins them. As far as we know, John did not see Jesus in the flesh until the first appearance of Jesus to the gathered disciples in the upper room.

John is the disciple who seemed closer to Jesus than any other. He is the one they sent to Jesus to ask questions they were afraid to ask. (John 13.22-24) He was the one who, along with his brother, James, expected to be closest to Jesus in his kingdom. (Mark 10.35-37) This was the disciple who wrote most passionately and poetically about the life and divinity of Jesus. (John 1.1-14) It was John who remembered and recorded the longest, most intimate and meaningful discourses of Jesus’ teaching, his struggles, and his demonstrations of love to the disciples. This disciple—the disciple whom Jesus loved—is one of the last to see him alive? 

Perhaps this was because he did not need to see to believe. John reports that he believed after seeing the empty tomb with its well-folded graveclothes, but before seeing Jesus alive. 

As Paul writes to Timothy, and to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15.3-8), Jesus did indeed appear “in the flesh,” not just to a few, but to many. This was an important distinction to dispel ideas about a “ghostly” Jesus and to dispute gnostic accounts that never believed Jesus had a physical body to begin with.

John leads the way for us, being the first to believe without seeing. As Jesus tells Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed..” (John 20.29)

There are real and tangible reasons and evidence to lead us toward belief—for John, the condition of the empty tomb or for us, the testimony of the early eyewitnesses—but the final line of belief can only be stepped over in faith.

*For information on the historical evidence of the consistency and reliability of the gospel message, see this video from scholar, Gary Habermas — 1:20

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly his mother and his brothers were standing outside and were anxious to have a word with him. But to the man who told him this Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” — Matthew 12.46-50

Today’s Readings
Amos 6 (Listen – 2:13)
John 8 (Listen – 7:33)

This Weekend’s Readings
Amos 7 (Listen – 2:45)John 9 (Listen – 4:56)
Amos 8 (Listen – 2:16)John 10 (Listen – 4:44)

Read more about Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women.

Read more about No Sigh Big Enough
Jesus often may not give us “signs” we might expect. There’s no sign big enough to ensure faith.

Last to Believe—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: John 20.27
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

From John: We’ll close out this Easter week by looking back at two significant post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. First is Thomas. Jesus loves doubters and John’s story about Thomas is meant to respect doubters, not to shame them. Jesus invites investigation.

Reflection: Last to Believe—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

John, the first disciple to believe Jesus is alive without seeing him face-to-face has a purpose in recording the doubts of Thomas, the last disciple to believe Jesus is alive. 

Far from putting Thomas down, John treats Thomas’s journey from doubt to faith with respect and tenderness. It was not John’s intention to make Thomas the butt of pastors’ “doubt” jokes for millennia.

Every moment in John’s gospel is carefully crafted and chosen, appearing for a purpose. Where the synoptic gospel writers focus heavily on sequential timelines and explicitly tying events to historical markers, John does not. John’s gospel arrangement is thematic rather than chronological and pedagogical rather than historical. There are seven signs or miracles, seven “I am” statements by Jesus, seven “You are” statements of witnesses about Jesus, seven statements of aspects of Jesus’ equality with God, and seven word-pictures of faith.

John confesses that there are not enough books to contain an unabridged record of what Jesus did. Instead, John’s purpose is setting forth Christ’s deity that we may believe and have life. (John 20.31) Jesus also says to Thomas and the rest of the disciples, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

John was writing later than the other evangelists (between 85-95 A.D, 20 years after the synoptics) and probably from Ephesus. Other than the synoptics, his audience had little access to direct eyewitness accounts other than his own. This may be why John emphasized the importance of believing in Jesus without physically seeing him and he uses Thomas as his example.

Instead of being the butt of bad jokes about doubt Thomas could be held up as a model of how to overcome doubt. It is easy to take shots at Thomas for not taking the other disciples at their word, however, none of them (except John) believed without seeing and John had the benefit of seeing the empty tomb. Thomas stayed near, continued searching, continued in fellowship with his friends for a week that must have seemed like a year before Jesus finally appeared personally to him.

Encourage those in doubt to follow the path of Thomas. Stay connected. Keep seeking. Keep asking. Keep knocking. Those who truly wish to conquer doubt will not fail to find Jesus showing them his hands, feet, and side.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “He who comes from above is above all others; he who is of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven bears witness to things he has seen and heard…since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words, for God gives him the Spirit without reserve.” — John 3.31

Today’s Readings
Amos 5 (Listen – 3:44)
John 7 (Listen – 5:53)

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
Oh, you of little faith…He accepts and encourages you today. You who doubt…He holds out his hand…to all of us doubters.

Read more about The Interruptions of Easter
Respond to Jesus right in the middle of your fears, sorrows, doubts, and guilt.