Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:
Today, December 26, 2020 is when the Christian Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Stephen, Martyr. This post is devoted to one of the Feast Days that the historic Christian Church observed that are generally neglected today. I pray that you find this message beneficial in your devotions this or another day.
“Saint Stephen, ‘a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5),’ was one of the Church’s first seven deacons. He was appointed by the leaders of the Church to distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem, thereby giving the apostles more time for their public ministry of proclamation (Acts 6:2-5). He and the other deacons apparently were expected not only to wait on tables but also to teach and preach. When some of his colleagues became jealous of him, they brought Stephen to the Sanhedrin and falsely charged him with blaspheming against Moses (Acts 6:9-14). Stephen’s confession of faith, along with his rebuke of the members of the Sanhedrin for rejecting their Messiah and being responsible for his death, so infuriated them that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first martyr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ and ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them (Acts 7:59-60).’” 1
The verse or theme for this feast is “Alleluia. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Alleluia.” It is from Psalm 116:15.
Old Testament 2 Chronicles 24:17-22
Epistle Acts 6:8–7:2a, 7:51-60
Gospel Matthew 23:34-39
The hymn appointed for this day is “The Son of God Goes Forth to War” as found on page 661 in the Lutheran Service Book. Although not a “Lutheran” version per se, you may listen to a version of the hymn at this direct link: “The Son of God goes forth to war” @ St. John’s Detroit – YouTube
Collect of the Day:
Heavenly Father, in the midst of our sufferings for the sake of Christ grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with the You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Pastor Jim Tuell
1 Treasury of Daily Prayer, Scot A Kinnaman, General Editor, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO., 2008, p, 1058.