Monday, 26 December 2011

Happy St Stephen's Day!!

One of the  features of Christmas is that, unlike Easter, it is an immoveable feast, and thus may fall on any day of the week, like all of the Saints Days. For those of us who are clergy this can sometimes mean having 'done Christmas' we are hauled early from our deep and one trusts 'well earned' slumbers the following morning to lead God's people in worship once more it being Sunday. 

I would be lying if I pretended that in years like this one when Christmas Day falls upon a Sunday, I do not breathe at least a slight sigh of relief and hap'ly leave the alarm off and slumber on. However it would be utterly foolish to disregard the day after Christmas, December 26th, St Stephen's day. So much of what passes for Christmas celebration nowadays seems to miss the point as my good friend 'The Shepherd of the Moss' makes plain, here. I don't mean that folk have forgotten that 'Jesus is the reason for the season' ( a phrase which thankfully one or two critical Christian voices are being raised against ), rather the way most of us has come to celebrate the season both infantilizes and sentimentalizes The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. 

St Stephen's Day is a reminder as 'rude and bare' as the Lord's cradle, that insofar as 'Christmas is for children' it is Only because the world is utterly inhospitable to those who would be childlike, utterly inhospitable to those who would enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The announcement of the Reign of God in The Babe of Bethlehem comes as Good News only because this is a Harsh and Savage world, for those who would follow the Christ Child in his humility, vulnerablity and utter truthfulness.

As soon as the Christ child is born, the church is called to remember what this means for her.
The Feast of the Nativity is Immediately followed by the Feast of her first witness, literally her first martyr. in the same way that the one who comes ahead, 'bearing witness to the light' pays the ultimate price for childlike truthfulness, the church's first Servant, (Deacon) knows that the coming of Christ into the world doesn't stop the conflict, it merely brings it all into the light, a light to which he must bear martureia.

It may well be that even in our Christmas celebrations, our eyes have been cast down, to children dressed in nativity clothes. St Stephen is one whom like John on Patmos sees Heaven opened, a reminder that in witnessing to Christ our gaze must ever be turned upwards, that our Gospel is that the Son of Man stands at the right hand of God. As Jesus tells Nathaniel, such a Vision is the mark of faith, a true Israelite in whom there is no guile, the one who sees as a child. To see as a child does not mean to look at a child, rather to look up and bear witness.

St Stephen is the first to remind us that our gaze must thither be fixed 
where true joys are to be found. 
This reminder is worth getting out of bed for.

[Icons, which have been a constant feature of my recent blogs are never posted as works of art. 
They are created for and intended as aids to worship, Only]

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