When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at (Stephen). But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.
First, welcome to the octave of Christmas! Keep celebrating, keep singing, and keep saying, "Merry Christmas!"
Second, as we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen today, the first martyr, the Church reminds us, in somewhat shocking fashion, of the cost of discipleship. Amidst the silent, holy nights, silver bells, chestnuts, sleigh rides and jingle bells, we hear that following this babe wrapped in swaddling clothes demands our lives.
Discipleship requires discipline and discipline requires sacrifice. Most of us will not be asked to lay down our lives for our faith in Jesus Christ; but discipleship entails humility. To truly give glory to this new born King, we must be willing to follow Him.
We can't just meet Him away in the manager, see Him at the wedding at Cana, hear about His deeds of multiplying food, walking on water, curing people, and bringing people back from the dead, and finally go visit the empty tomb and call ourselves disciples.
We must walk in His footsteps: into the desert, along the Via Dolorosa, and to the Cross.
We must continually follow His way, learn about His truth, and participate in His life.
This isn't meant to break up the Christmas party, though I have been told more than once in my life that I'm too serious. Remember, Christmas is an octave after all. And, hearing this story of St. Stephen shouldn't be something that we block out because it doesn't quite fit with the holiday cheer.
In fact, as believers in Jesus Christ, this second day of Christmas should be encouragement for our journey.
It should fill us with hope that this Christ whom shepherds guard and angels sing is who He was foretold to be, who He says He is, and who He proved Himself to be.
He came to conquer sin and death. He came to show us the way, teach us the truth, and give us new life. He came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). The more that we can submit ourselves to His burden and yoke, the more that we might come to see that nothing - not even death - can take away the victory that Christ won for us. We should take heart that like St. Stephen, as disciples we might also see the glory of God during the darkest trials of our lives.
On this, the second day of Christmas, may our true love, Jesus Christ, give to us the faith, hope, and love of St. Stephen to give our lives, completely, to Christ.