"They could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which (Stephen) spoke." Acts 6:10
Every year it shocks us to celebrate the feast of Stephen, the first martyr, on the day after Christmas. Can't we have a day or three of softer and kinder celebrations? Why do we have to move so quickly from celebrating birth to exalting death?
The answer is not complex or very difficult. For Christians, a martyr's death is a birth, an exaltation and a confirmation of everything we believe. When someone is able to face and enter death freely for the sake of announcing good news, the entire community is reborn in faith. Everyone is changed by the sacrifice of those who willingly give their lives for the sake of God's reign.
In truth, Christmas is a reminder that Christ did not cling to his Godhead (Phil 2:6) but freely let go in order to be with us. This "dying" reminds us that dying to oneself is the essence of being born in Christ and the clearest sign that faith empowers us to live a counter cultural life. As Christians we live for others, not for ourselves. We are not about self aggrandizement, but love of all creation for the sake of God's reign.
Today, take five minutes of silence to pray about how to help those in desperate need.
Who died for you so that you might live?