CHRISTMASTIDE – Feast of St. Stephen

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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Tell me something.  How far are you willing to go to defend your property?  Or your integrity?  Or your person?  Or, for veterans and military personnel, your country?  Or your family?  Good.  I knew all my readers were men and women of honorable character.  Now, how far would you go to defend your love for Jesus or whomever you name as Lord of your life?  Hmmm, let’s talk about it.

Chronologically, I have been the boy fearful of a judgemental white-haired man in the sky, the strident atheist, the unsure agnostic, the sure-footed Christian with all the right answers, the doubting Thomas, and the child of God living in the mystery and awe of an Almighty presence.

But, I have never feared becoming a martyr for my faith.  We are indeed fortunate and blessed to live in a society where we can fearlessly worship, or not, as we choose.  Much of the world does not have that luxury.  What about you?  Are there elements of faith which you will never abandon, no matter what the cost?

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he died.  Acts 7:59-60

Is there any reason to doubt this account of the follower of Jesus who, 2 years after Jesus’ crucufixion, was stoned to death by those who considered his testimony blasphemous?  We are witness in our age to televised beheadings by radical elements of religion.  They are disturbing and frightening, but no more so than what the early Christians faced when proclaiming their faith.

Today, the 2nd day of Christmastide, parts of the Christian world celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, Christianity’s first recorded martyr after Jesus himself.  What would I do?  How about you?  I would like to think I’ll be on the front lines willing to take a bullet for Jesus and my faith.  And then, as I lay there dying, I would say, “Lord , forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing?”

Really?  Could I be a willing and forgiving martyr?  Hmmmm, something to think about.

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