Today’s Reflection: Acts 6:8-7:2, 51-60
Daily Lectionary: Isaiah 49:22-26; 50:4-51:8,12-16; Matthew 1:18-25

Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Christ the Savior is born! Merry Christmas! And then Stephen was stoned to death. Just as fast as the Christmas decorations are coming down in the stores, the Church jumps from the Savior’s birth to the death of the first martyr. It’s not an accident that St. Stephen is remembered today. It’s a reminder that the “peace on earth” that the angels sing of is not an earthly peace. It’s a peace that passes understanding.

It’s the sort of peace that fills a man like Stephen, who is being battered to death by rocks, and enables him to beg forgiveness for those who are killing him. Think back to last month when a gunman attacked a church in Texas. Amid the violence and sadness, there is a peace that comes from Jesus.

Peace comes because Jesus was born, carried our sins, died on the cross, and rose from the dead. The resurrection of the Savior is what topples death and undoes its power. It robs death of its sting so that Christians face that death with the glad confidence that Christ will raise us from the dead on the Last Day. In other words, we can mock death by saying, “Go ahead and kill me, Death! Christ the Savior is just going to bring me back to life!”

And, in a strange, wraparound, pointing-back-to-Christ-the-Savior sort of way, Stephen’s words at his death remind us of Jesus’ words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Christ the Savior, born on Christmas, came to save sinners. Such a salvation can’t help but overflow in our lives with forgiveness for others. That’s what the gifts of Jesus do. Even as the world rushes to return gifts that are too small, or duplicates, or are not wanted, the gifts of Jesus fill the world with peace and hope and joy. Merry Christmas! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

“He will on you the gifts bestow Prepared by God for all below, That in His kingdom, bright and fair, You may with us His glory share. (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come, LSB 358:4)

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