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Feast of Stephen

December 26, 2020

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.” Acts 7:51

Yesterday was a wonderful day around here. We worshipped, gave and received gifts, called loved ones, built LEGO, raced remote-control cars, read new books, watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, took naps, and ate (and ate and ate some more). It was pretty much the Christmas everyone in my family needed, time spent together in the presence of our newborn Savior, the Word made flesh.

The world did not, and does not, immediately welcome Jesus in all times and places. Jesus came to save us from our sin; there is no chance sin will not fight back. And so today, the Second Day of Christmas, the lectionary reminds us of the resistance put up by this world.

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr (or protomartyr) of the church. Chosen as one of the first seven deacons whose job it was to show forth the goodness of God by distributing food to widows and others in need, Stephen quickly ran afoul of the religious authorities. He was tasked with sharing food so that the Apostles could focus on the Word, but Stephen just couldn’t help himself: He preached a sermon that lasts most of Acts 7, a sermon that gets him killed (which is probably why preachers don’t refer to their congregations as “stiff-necked people,” even if preachers might, on occasion, wish to do so). As they are stoning him to death, Stephen prays that the Lord will receive his spirit; he also prays for forgiveness for those who are killing him.

Jesus’ mission met, and still meets, resistance at every turn. Even within ourselves. But the death of Stephen could no more stop the life of Jesus than the death of Jesus could stop the life of Jesus. The gift of Christmas continues to be given. May the gift of the Christ child, born to you again this season, draw you out of sin and death and into the free gift of life, eternal and abundant.

Oh, and give a listen to the “Good King Wenceslas” today, set on Stephen’s Feast. If you are enjoying an abundance of gifts this season, remember that “ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of abundant life, you desire that all people would have enough. Enough food to eat and life enough to live forever with you. Help us to welcome Jesus into our hearts and to share him with this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: I was going to share a painting or icon of Stephen, but this picture of the kids in their Christmas jammies seemed more our speed today.

From → COVID-19

One Comment
  1. LaNell Koenig permalink

    Love this picture.

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