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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

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St. Stephen

Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59
Psalm 31
Matthew 10:17-22

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christmas is war on the world

"Then they rushed at him as one man, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him." —Acts 7:57-58

Most families have special Christmas traditions. On the second day of Christmas, the Catholic family traditionally recalls the brutal murder of Stephen, the first martyr. Why recall such a gruesome event, especially at Christmas time?

The original purpose of Christmas was to challenge the life-style of the world by intentionally trying to ruin the pagans' festivities. In the third century, the Romans set their sun-god festival for December 25. They had the date years before Christians formally celebrated Christmas in the year 336. Christians intentionally scheduled their celebrations to conflict with the pagans' festivities. We did this as an act of aggression, declaring war, picking a fight, and asking for trouble.

Christians made a lot of enemies by breaking up the pagans' parties. We also stepped on the toes of business people who made money off the pagan festivities. When you're bad for business, you make even more enemies who "will hale you into court," "flog you," grind their teeth in anger at you, and begin to stone you (Mt 10:17; Acts 7:54, 58). "You will be hated by all" on account of Jesus (Mt 10:22). "But whoever holds out till the end will escape death" (Mt 10:22).

Prayer:  Jesus, may my Christmas be a threat to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Promise:  "As Stephen was being stoned he could be heard praying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' " —Acts 7:59

Praise:  St. Stephen held out to the end, beheld God's glory, and forgave his enemies as he was brutally murdered.

Reference:  (For a related teaching, order our leaflet Spiritual Warfare or our audio tape AV 57-3 or video V-57.)

Rescript:  †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 30, 2007

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