This morning while washing my face and putting on makeup and blow-drying my hair, I was trying to keep tears from streaming down my face. Let me briefly tell you why.
I was listening to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra song “Good King Joy,” which combines the tunes of “Joy to the World” and “Good King Wenceslas” (the moderately obscure carol about the king who feeds, warms, and clothes a poor man) but also contains a blues-gospel vocal riff on the journey of the wise men to bring gifts to Jesus. My first thought was “It’s odd that they would conflate those two stories.” My next thought was “Duh. They’re not conflating anything; those two stories are absolutely connected.” Jesus said that whatever we do for “the least of these”–like the poor man that King W. saw–we have done for him. And that’s why we sing about King W. at Christmas (well, we at least hear the song occasionally–I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually sung it) and why so many people give their time and money at Christmas. Charitable giving at Christmas is not something Charles Dickens came up with in the 1840s; Dickens was drawing from a very old tradition that stretches all the way back to the wise men and even further back to the innkeeper who did, after all, let Mary and Joseph stay in the stable. We give to the poor at Christmas because on the first Christmas, God became poor. He didn’t just become a baby unable to help himself; he became a baby born to a couple who didn’t have much in terms of worldly possessions and who, on the night Jesus was born, didn’t even have a place to stay.
This seems so obvious now that I’m typing it out, and it’s not like I didn’t know all this before. It just hit me this morning in a way that it never has before. This advent season, I want to pay attention to the people around me who are economically poor as well as poor in spirit, because in doing so I am paying attention to Jesus.