ST. STEPHEN’S DAY (DECEMBER 26) (Red)
Heavenly Father you gave your martyr Saint Stephen grace to pray for
those who stoned him: grant that when we suffer for the truth we may
follow his example of forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Old Testment: II Chron. 24:17-22 Psalm: 31:1-5
Epistle: Acts 7:54-60 Gospel: Matt. 23:34-39 (BCP, CHURCH OF NIGERIA ANGLICAN COMMUNION)
Saint Stephen’s Day, also called the feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr, celebrated on 26 December in the Latin Church and 27 December in Eastern Christianity. It might also interest you to know that St. Stephen is the first Martyr celebration on the Christian Church Year calendar which usually begins in Advent and ends in Trinity.
2 Chronicles 24:20 And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.
2 Chronicles 24:21 And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD.
From our Old Testament reading, we can see that stoning servants of God did not start from the time of St. Stephen, Zachariah was also stoned to death just like St. Stephen under the command of the King while that of St. Stephen was under the command of Saul who now became St. Paul the Apostle of Christ.
These men were not stoned to Death for any offence rather for speaking out the truth from the most High God. While St. Stephen was being stoned, He was found praying for them that God should forgive them.
Psalms 31:5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
In our Psalms, we can see the last prayer of St. Stephen before he died. He committed his spirit into the hands of God, this reminds me of Christ whom before He gave up the ghost on the Cross committed His spirit into the hands of God. The truth here is that the flesh profits nothing, these men were not afraid of those who can destroy the flesh and not the spirit. For it is only God that can destroy both the flesh and the spirit. This makes it necessary as our daily prayers to always commit our spirit into the hands of God not only at the hour of death but in our everyday endeavour for no man knows when death will come. At the death of a man, the flesh returns to the dust out of where it was created but the spirit return to the maker who breathed into man.
The Acts 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
From our Epistle, we discovered another prayer St. Stephen prayed for those who stoned him. St. Stephen know that the people who stoned him unto death did not actually know what they were doing, after seeing heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God he took up an intercession for the people. His prayer should be a perfect example for us to pray when those who know not about Jesus Christ begin to prosecute us. It is out of ignorance that unbelievers prosecute the Brides of Christ and it should be our continual prayers that the Lord in His mercy should not look upon their sin but show them the way of salvation. This was how Saul was picked up by God and used him mightly for His great purpose.
St. Matthew 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
St. Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
St. Matthew 23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
In the Gospel reading for the day, this was Jesus Christ speaking concerning the cruelty of the people of Israel regarding the prophets God has sent to them. God from time past has tried to gather His people through instructions and warnings from His prophets but the people would not listen to them. The world around us today is full of all sorts of cruelty. There are people and nations around us today who needs to hear the instructions and warning from the Lord, most of us has been sent by God to deliver this but fear of death prosecution has hindered many. The truth is that Jesus Christ will come again but not for the correction or warning but for judgement.
Let us be as brave as St. Stephen in preaching the gospel, the Lord is able to save unto eternal life, the people will not hear when there is no preacher to preach to them so let us by faith fight the good fight and allow Christ when He shall come again to judge the earth.