Advent Devotion for December 26
Candle Lighter says: “As they stoned him, Stephen prayed,”
Response: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
SCRIPTURE: Acts 7:59-60; 8:1-8
59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
8 Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) 3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
4 But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. 5 Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. 6 Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. 7 Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
Additional Scriptures: Psalm 148
SOME THOUGHTS: Back in October we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. One of the things we did was to show the movie, Luther, with Joseph Fiennes and Peter Ustinov. (By the way, I would highly recommend you renting it if you haven’t seen it.) One of the most powerful lines in the film is when Luther responds to his spiritual mentor who has asked him to back off because what he was doing was splitting the Roman church. In Luther’s words, “Did you not think there would be a heavy cost?” On this first day after Christmas, the early church marked it with what is known as the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity. If we take seriously and grasp the significance of God’s coming to earth to bring restoration to a fallen world at the most extreme cost of His Son, why should we think there would be no earthly cost to us to stand against evil? The irony is that while the gift of salvation is free, that free gift can bring with it persecution, imprisonment (Andrew Brunson-pray for him today), ostracizing, ridicule, or death. In fact, Jesus told His disciples there would be persecution (John 15:20-21). What does this have to do with Christmas? It reminds us of the greater significance of the birth of Jesus. It literally changed the universe! It is not a one-day event. It restructured time!
A few more words about the Feast of St. Stephen. This day is also known as Boxing Day in the British Empire. The idea being it was a day to collect alms for the poor among us in honor of Stephen’s martyrdom. As the story goes…In the 10th century, Good King Wenceslas, the Duke of Bohemia, risked his life on this particular day to feed a peasant who was gathering wood on this freezing cold night. The idea carried on with the giving of Christmas boxes to the poor and needy, or in our day, small gifts to tradesmen who service us throughout the year (Letter carriers, lawn care people, hairdressers, etc.)
PRAYER: Father of Jesus, cause me to be a mirror of thy grace, to show others the joy of thy service. May my lips be well-tuned cymbals sounding thy praise. Let a halo of heavenly-mindedness sparkle around me and a lamp of kindness sunbeam my path. Teach me the happy art of attending to things temporal with a mind intent on things eternal. Send me forth to have compassion on the ignorant and miserable. Help me to walk as Jesus walked, my only Savior and perfect model, His mind my inward guest, His meekness my covering garb. Let my happy place be amongst the poor in spirit, my delight in the gentle ranks of the meek. Let me always esteem others better than myself, and find in true humility an heirdom to two worlds.
—from The Valley of Vision, p.136