Monday, January 29, 2007

12/30/06: Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

Christmas is more than the celebrations of Eve and Day. Christmastide lasts for Twelve Days, until the Eve of January 5, with is Twelfth Night Eve. But a lot to commemorate occurs in these twelve days. These celebrations were completely foreign to me within my evangelical community, and I wanted to share them here so others may learn as well.

The Second Day of Christmas is Saint Stephen's Day. We read about St. Stephen in the sixth and seventh chapters in St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles. In the sixth chapter of Acts, starting in the eighth verse, we are told:

"Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue...."

Then, as the sixth chapter closes:

"All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel."

St. Stephen then gave a rousing speech to the Jewish leaders, recounting their history and the birth of the Messiah. The leaders were so angered by Stephen's testimony and accusations that he was immediately stoned.

Thus St. Stephen is remembered as a saint who stood up for Jesus the Christ against great odds, and became the first martyr of the New Way.

The Collect in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for December 26 reads thus:

Grant, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

May your Christmastide shine with the Light of Christ our Lord!

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