Saint Stephen's Day

On this, the twenty-sixth day of December, children wake to play with toys only yesterday received as moms pick up the remains of shredded wrapping paper and dads rinse the special dishes that appear on the dining table but once a year.  Others begin their Kwanza celebrations or enjoy the holiday named after boxes.  Still others pause to remember the life and death of the early (some say first) Christian martyr on this, the Christian calendar date dedicated to a young man who spoke boldly and stood faithfully for Christ.

The first words about Stephen in the biblical writings refer to him as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit."  The second statement about the chosen servant for the noble task of feeding widows describes his character and acts.

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
Acts 6:8 (NIV)
In addition to displaying God's power, the young deacon declared truth with great courage - even as stones careened toward him as angry hypocrites hurled them.  Near the end of his sermon summarizing the highlights of Hebrew history, Stephen quoted words of Isaiah, the prophet of old.
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
    Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’"
Acts 7:49-50 (NIV)

Those words from Isaiah 66 declare the majesty of God.  Once the prophet did such proclaiming, he continued writing by describing those who please God. 

“These are the ones I look on with favor:
    those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
    and who tremble at my word."
Isaiah 66:2b (NIV)

After Stephen quoted Isaiah, he described those listening to his message . . .

“You stiff-necked people!"
Acts 7:51a (NIV)

On this twenty-sixth day of December, just days away from a new year, a careful look at the descriptions is worth the effort.

Isaiah's favored one: 
     humble, contrite, trembling at God's word
Stephen's listeners: 

I'd rather be described as the former.  To live the Ordinary Life in a Christ-worthy way is to loosen one's neck.  To live the Ordinary Life is to love, laugh, honor, forgive, and walk humbly in our everyday lives.

As you offer toasts as 2017 gives way to 2018, lift a cheer to Stephen in appreciation of his job well done and example well set.


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