AM Psalm 28, 30; 2 Chronicles 24:17-22; Acts 6:1-7
PM Psalm 118; Wisdom 4:7-15; Acts 7:59-8:8
On the Second Day of Christmas we remember Stephen, the deacon and the first martyr of the Christian Church. His story is told in the 6th and 7th chapters of the Book of Acts.
Now if you are thinking like I am, “What on earth does Stephen, a martyr, have to do with Christmas?” you are not alone!
Originally St. Stephen’s Feast Day just happened to coincide with the Second Day of Christmas, and originally the two had nothing to do with one another. But as time has gone on, more connections have been made between the two, and I think it is a good thing.
One of the clues to the connection I see between Christmas and Stephen is in that fancy word DEACON. A deacon is one who cares for others. Stephen was one of the first deacons, and was called upon in the Book of Acts to assist with helping the needy widows and others who were being neglected.
Have you ever heard of Boxing Day? In the United Kingdom it is actually a nationally recognized holiday, traditionally the day following Dec. 25. Although it has become a day when employers give gifts to employees, it historically was a day when people would “box” clothing, food, and other items to give to those in need. These were Alms Boxes or Christmas Boxes. As a deacon in the 1st Century Church, St Stephen had this same responsibility, distributing such items to widows, orphans, and the poor and afflicted.
St. Stephen is a good reminder that Christmas is not all about us. It is not about amassing as many material goods as one can, which is often the pervasive drive of our greed-driven consumeristic culture. The undercurrent of sin/greed lurks in the shadows. Somehow our culture has traded in the truth of the gospel for a lie: that we can find happiness by gathering as many worldly possessions as we can. St. Stephen flies in the face of that.
The world does not want us to remember St. Stephen. They want us to forget about his spirit. The world wants us to horde, and consume, and keep consuming.
We as Christians stand diametrically opposed to that culture. We are more interested in giving. We are more interested in losing our lives, than building up for ourselves treasures on earth.
The world is not about GIVE GIVE GIVE, but about GET GET GET.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself how Stephen died. He was martyred. And why? Because he threatened the establishment. Because the truth of the gospel is radical, and it affects every fiber of our being. It transforms lives. Stephen, with his transformed life, sought to turn the tables on those who had power and influence, and arm those who did not. That threatened those in power. And he paid for it with his life.
Is it not the same for us? Does Christmas not transform every fiber of our being? Does the gift of the Christ Child not lead to such ecstatic joy that goodwill overflows from us, and needs to be shared?
Is the gift of Christmas only for us? Or is it for all the world?
Let’s get to spreading that Gift.