Pastor’s Perspective (December 2016)
One of the gifts of having the Lutheran Church of Framingham join us in ministry has been my taking on the leadership of a weekly bible study at Heritage Assisted Living. We have been reading through the book of Acts, and we recently read through the story of Stephen. Stephen is celebrated as the first martyr of Christianity, the first to die for the sake of defending Jesus and the growth of this new community. In the book of Acts 6:14, his accusers say, “We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” Of course, he was not stoned only for these accusations, but he was stoned because of what he represented and the truth he was
trying to reveal.
The thought of being killed for what we believe can give us pause, but the startling fact about St. Stephen is that his feast day is on December 26. Just as we are enjoying the celebration of Jesus’ humble birth, and the light is finally brought into the world, the darker side of Christmas emerges. Celebrating the first man to die for the sake of Jesus immediately after celebrating the birth of that same Jesus gives us a frightening jolt of realization of what it is we celebrate at Bethlehem.
Those who killed Stephen wanted to keep things the way they were, to avoid the gift of new life set in front of them, and to extinguish any hope of a Kingdom of God. Jesus was born to turn the world upside-down, and, as we venerate the beauty of the nativity scene, it is easy to forget that. Remembering Stephen so soon after the birth of Jesus is an alarming lesson on where we went wrong. With God’s help, we can see the promise of new light in the infant Jesus, a baby who was born to change the world.
Your friend in Christ,