Happy Seventh Day of Christmas! Happy New Year!
As we move through the final half of Christmastide and the start of 2016, I hope and pray that your days are marked with a sense of Christ’s presence and goodness.
If you’ve followed the church calendar in this season you’ve noticed Dec. 26 was the Feast of St. Stephen, a day the church sets aside to remember its first martyr. You might also have noticed that Dec. 29 marked the “Holy Innocents,” those children killed by King Herod as he sought to kill the infant Jesus, in Matthew 2:16-18. These two days seem very out of place in the midst of Christmas celebration. What do they have to do with Christmas?
Rather than undercut the celebration, these days can serve to deepen our understanding of what God has done in sending His son. They are a reminder that the hope of Christmas is not saccharine or escapist, but it is a hope within history, within our world. God took on flesh in Jesus, in the world of Peshawars, Sandy Hooks, and San Bernardinos. The hope we celebrate at Christmas is hope for justice that takes root in a world of atrocities, it is a hope for the here and now. Jesus comes to set this world right.
Stephen’s example is a reminder that embodying this hope, participating in it, is costly. Proclaiming and serving in the name of Christ cost Stephen everything. As we seek to be a people who participate in God’s renewal of all things, Stephen is an example that participation involves following the way of the cross. This is sobering, but we can do it because of the hope we have in Christ. In sending Jesus, God has shown his commitment to bringing justice and making all things new in our world. We can work to those ends, and even suffer, in the sure hope that God is faithfully and completely setting things right. On account of this, even in the midst of brokenness and evil, we can celebrate and joyfully participate. He is making all things new.
In sure hope,