In 2019, the Canadian Staff Band (CSB) will mark its 50th anniversary. As we celebrate the CSB’s ministry over the years, I can’t help but think of the sacrificial service of so many Salvation Army musicians, especially at Christmastime. They spend countless hours playing at kettles, bringing cheer to health-care facilities, marching in Santa Claus parades and putting us all in the Christmas spirit.

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without the music, would it? Somehow, the music inspires us to remember the story of God’s love—how he sent his Son to be born as a baby in a manger. It shouldn’t be lost on us that he was born in poverty and became a refugee in the early years of his life.

The Canadian Staff Band performs at the gala “Christmas With The Salvation Army”The Canadian Staff Band performs at the gala “Christmas With The Salvation Army” (Photo: Steve Nelson)
In Jesus, God gave us a tremendous gift. That Jesus was born in a difficult time, under difficult circumstances, compels us to be more generous at this time of year, and music is often the catalyst. People passing our kettles are moved to donate when they hear the strains of Christmas music in the air.

I’m often moved when I hear the wonderful carol Good King Wenceslas, the story of a Bohemian king who sets out through the winter weather to bring food and firewood to a poor man. According to the lyrics, the king was celebrating the Feast of Stephen, or the second day of Christmas (December 26), a day when Stephen is remembered as the first martyr of the Christian faith.

Acts 6:5 tells us that Stephen was chosen to help with the distribution of food to the poor—the first social services worker in the early Christian church. (Perhaps that’s why the story of King Wenceslas begins on the Feast of Stephen.)

As a Salvation Army, we have become associated with Christmas for our service to the poor. But this service isn’t just something we do at Christmas, and it shouldn’t be something we do for attention. Holiness means living justly in the world, and that means taking care of those who are in need whenever necessary. Our service should be a natural outcome of our relationship with Christ.

In Luke 11, Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of a religious leader. He accepted the invitation, arrived and sat down at the table (or reclined, in true Middle Eastern tradition). The host was insulted that Jesus didn’t go through the ceremonial washing before sitting down to the meal. Jesus had harsh words in return. “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you” (Luke 11:39-41).

Generosity is part of being Christlike. Serving others is part of holiness. Loving your neighbour is sharing God’s heart with the world.

“Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye, who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.”
Good King Wenceslas

Commissioner Susan McMillan is the territorial commander of the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Follow her at  and

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