Christmas Joy

Yesterday we entered the Christmas season by celebrating the birth of the Christ Child. Jesus is the seed of the woman, longed for over 4 millennia; the branch of Jesse, come to set his people free; the Messiah of Israel and desire of all nations. For us, He is our God and Savior, who humbled Himself as a baby, but rescued us from our sin and now rules the nations. Yesterday we rejoiced at the wonder and thrill of God come to live among us!

Today we remember that this world is hostile to the Christ Child. Shortly after Jesus assumed the throne of David in heaven, His servant Stephen was murdered for testifying that Jesus is the Christ of God. This savage attack no doubt terrified the first disciples, but they remembered that Jesus rose from the dead - and they believed that they would, too. Emboldened by this conviction, they testified all the more.

I’ve been teaching Revelation at our church this year, and the death of the saints is a recurring theme. Murder is horrible whatever the circumstances, and the murder of Christians is an attack upon God Himself. But scripture teaches us that the other side of martyrdom is the heroic homecoming of the victors in the cosmic battle for the earth. And victors they are. The martyrs are those who achieved victory over sin and the world and Satan by remaining faithful to the end. Someday their individual victories will accumulate into the worldwide reign of Jesus in peace.

Let’s rejoice in the testimony of Stephen on this special day. Let’s pray that we also might hope in the resurrection and therefore remain faithful to the end. And let’s pray for those who are dying today, and will face death tomorrow - the saints persecuted by the Islamic State in Iraq, those hunted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, the pastors in China who resume preaching after 15 years in prison, and all Christians everywhere who face death daily for Jesus.

May God richly bless you and your loved ones this Christmastide!

David Green, Area Coordinator
St. Stephen's Day, 2014 • 610-691-0988 • 631 Fourth Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18018