The revelation of Christ the Lord at Christmas is not just a matter of his joyous birth, but it is meant to remind of the totality of his Incarnation. This means that the mystery of Christmas is not just that God became a baby, wondrous as this is, but that God, in Christ, entered into the totality of human experience- gestation, birth, death and everything in between.
The descent of God in Christ into our flesh was total and complete.
The holy birth of our Savior is revealed in its fullness in Christ’s willingness to become human and to accept that he would suffer and die.
We should keep this in mind as we recall the on the day following the great solemnity of Christ’s birth, the death of St. Stephen- who was chosen to be the first Christians to die, rather than deny his faith in the Lord Jesus.
St. Stephen is a martyr, and as such he is one of the great witnesses to what faith in the Lord Jesus is all about. We believe not simply in the teachings of Jesus, but in Jesus himself, and our faith in him, that is, our act of trust in him, is that in him is a power that transcends suffering and is greater than death.
St. Stephen gave up his life as testimony to his conviction that for those who are “in Christ”, that is sanctified and redeemed by the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead, will experience in death, not an end, but a new kind of beginning- not a locked door, but a route of access to God.
But the affirmation of our faith in Christ’s power to save us from death is not the only lesson that we recall on the Feast of St. Stephen.
We remember not only that St. Stephen died, but the manner in which he died.
Treated unjustly and with abject cruelty, St. Stephen was willing to forgive those who had persecuted and harmed him, and it is his willingness to forgive that displays to us how faith in Christ transforms us, and sets the disciples of the Lord Jesus apart from world.
We are called by the Lord to resist evil, bear witness to the truth, and protect the innocent and vulnerable. But how precisely? The way of a disciple of the Lord Jesus is not one of vengeance and retribution, but of a willingness to forgive.
May St. Stephen intercede for us today, help us to bear witness to Christ’s power to redeem and save, and to give us courage to forgive one another and seek to make amends for the what we have done and what we have failed to do.