I remember learning the carol “Good King Wenceslas” when I was a kid, and finding out that St. Stephen’s Day, mentioned in the song, is December 26. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what this means: after Christmas—the very next day!—the church has traditionally remembered the first Christian martyr. What a somber thing to celebrate the day after Christmas! And yet, how fitting. Even within the most festive season of the year, we do experience troubles. Stephen’s testimony shows us strength and hope within tragedy. Stephen knew Jesus, and in his darkest moments he saw Jesus, and Jesus gave him strength to witness and to praise Jesus until he joined him in heaven.
Acts 6:8-7:2, Acts 7:51-60
Psalm 31 is full of verses to borrow for your own prayers. I love verse 24.
Jeremiah was an Old Testament martyr. He used the truths from the books of Moses, Psalms and Hosea as he shared God’s message and called the people to repent.
Acts 6 and 7: To see Stephen’s full story and testimony, read all of both chapters.
Matthew 23 contains Jesus’ strong words of judgment to those who rejected him, as well as his love for them.
My treasure today is the Holy Spirit.
[Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55)
Lord, you have always been sending messengers and messages to your world, and it seems we humans have a lousy track record when it comes to listening. You long to gather us to your comforting arms but we ignore you—or worse, we outright rebel. Yet even after your people killed your Son, you sent your Spirit to his friends to abide with them—and with us—to guide and empower us and to know the distress of our souls.
Photo Credit: Henk Bouma