Saturday, December 26, 2009

On the 2nd Day of Christmas: The Feast of Stephen

It seems odd that the commemoration of the first martyr falls the day after the birth of the Savior!

Dec. 25: The Savior Comes; Dec. 26: Stephen is martyred!

Lets take the easy road and talk about Stephen. Saints and martyrs are always commemorated on the day they leave this veil of tears and not on the day they enter it. So if Stephen was martyred on Dec. 26, we then commemorate him on that day.

Now, how did we get Christmas on Dec. 25? For that we turn to Dr. Gene Edward Veith's excerpt from Biblical Archaeology Review.

First, some mythbusting. Christians do NOT celebrate Christmas because they christianized a pagan festival.  They had no interest in pagan ritual and were quite content to not participate.

So, why Dec. 25?  The ancient tradition dated the crucifixion on March 25, which in turn, was used to commemorate the Feast of the Annunciation (when Gabriel told Mary she was with child).  Tack on 9 months to Jesus' conception and you get to celebrate His birth on Dec. 25.

Now for some trivia: What Christmas carol doesn't mention the birth of Christ but does mention the Feast of Stephen?

That's right, Good King Wenceslas!

For more about the 12 days of Christmas and the famous king of Bohemia, check out this post from Past Elder.

Christmas: Day 2: In the First Light

Where the Gospel reading for Christmas Eve is Luke 2, the Gospel reading for Christmas Eve is John 1.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

In Him was life,
and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness has not overcome it.

He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
yet the world did not know Him.
He came to his own,
and His own people did not receive him.

But to all who did receive him,
who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God,

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.

And from His fullness
we have all received grace upon grace.

For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1, selected verses (ESV)

All for Hymn Celebrates the 12 Days of Christmas

The secular Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs through Dec. 25. The Western Church's Christmas begins at sundown on Dec. 24 and runs through sundown on Jan. 5, just before the Magi arrive for the Epiphany season.

All for Hymn will have new posts each morning at 8:00 am EST to celebrate each of the 12 Days of Christmas.

For now, everyone light some candles and dim the lights one last time!