No, I’m not being politically correct, I’m being liturgically correct. The end of December is a rapid-fire collection of major holy days: Saint Thomas on the 21st, Christmas on the 25th, St. Stephen today, St. John tomorrow, and the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem on the 28th.
It feels odd, at first, to celebrate and remember a martyr the day after Christmas. It’s a sobering reminder, on one hand, that the life Christ calls us into still involves persecution and suffering and even death. In today’s Gospel (Matthew 23:29-39 at the Communion service), Jesus observes that such righteous suffering has happened before and will continue to happen (as demonstrated with Stephen in the book of the Acts). Today’s Collect brings some of Stephen’s final visions and words to us as a prayer that we can all share: may we all “behold the glory that shall be revealed” and “learn to love and bless our persecutors.” Yesterday’s Christmas collect (which would traditionally be repeated today and for the next several days) points out that Christ took on our human nature – he became like us. Today’s lessons remind us that it’s a mutual exchange: we too, like Christ, are called to a life of potential suffering and death, with the glory of eternal life beyond it.