Saturday 26 December 2020

Bible Book:

But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him (v. 57)

Acts 7:51-60 Saturday 26 December 2020

Psalm 13


We fast-forward over three decades from yesterday’s reading, during which time the baby lying in the manger grew, taught, healed, was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Today, we remember St Stephen and his martyrdom, which has clear echoes of Jesus’ own death. The elders and scribes, stirred up by a group who had tried (and failed) to argue with Stephen’s teaching, were so incensed by his preaching that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Like Jesus, Stephen prayed that God might receive his spirit and forgive his persecutors (Acts 7: 59-60, cf. Luke 23:46, 34).

Stephen joins the small number of people in the Bible privileged to receive a vision of the glory of God, together with Moses (eg Exodus 33:18-23) and Abraham (Acts 7:2). It is this vision, and Stephen’s suggestion that Jesus is now standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56) that finally pushes the religious leaders and false witnesses into a murderous rage. However, it also allows Stephen, in the face of death, to have "sure ground for hope and confidence and even for joy" (The Methodist Worship Book, p. 449).

Perhaps this bloodthirsty story is not what we want to read on Boxing Day, when we’re lying in a sugar-induced coma surrounded by Quality Street wrappers. Perhaps we’d like to linger a little longer in the stable, gazing with the shepherds at the Christ child and pondering with Mary. But the comfort and joy of Christmas Day must be held in tension with the knowledge that Jesus would be persecuted for the message of hope he brought, and that his followers would share in the same fate.

I wonder who are the prophets in today’s society? I wonder how often we, like the elders and scribes, ‘cover our ears’ and turn against those bringing unwelcome news – those calling our attention to climate change, for example? We might not stone them, but we might vilify them in the media, or use their human failings as an excuse not to listen to the truth of their message.

To Ponder:

  • 2020 has forced many of us to do without international travel, and to use our cars far less. What changes have you made that you hope to sustain when life returns to some semblance of ‘normal’?
  • How would you define a ‘prophet’?


Previous Page Friday 25 December 2020
Next Page Sunday 13 December 2020