Feast of St. Stephen, Martyr
The Second Day of Christmas
December 26, 2011
The Lord be with you
Today is the Feast of St. Stephen, Martyr. St. Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5), was one of the Church’s first seven deacons. He was appointed by the leaders of the Church to distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, thereby giving the apostles more time for their public ministry of proclamation (Acts 6:2-5). He and the other deacons apparently were expected not only to wait on tables but also to teach and preach. When some of his colleagues became jealous of him, they brought Stephen to the Sanhedrin and falsely charged him with blaspheming against Moses (Acts 6:9-14). Stephen’s confession of faith, along with his rebuke of the members of the Sanhedrin for rejecting their Messiah and being responsible for His death, so infuriated them that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first martyr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60)
On this day, the day after we remember the birth of our Lord Jesus, we remember another birth, the birth into heaven of Stephen. His feast day is yet another way of declaring the church’s confidence that the outcome of the Christian struggle is certain. It is also a further testimony that the birth of Christ achieves its purpose, eternal glory for the believer.
Appropriate prayers include prayers for the light of Christ’s glory to shine through us; for grace to adore the mystery of the incarnation; for the poor and the despised, first to hear the announcement of Jesus’ birth; for those to whom the coming of God in human flesh means nothing; and for peace in the Holy Land where Christ was born.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert