Streaks of Red

Those who worship in liturgical churches know that white is the festival color for Christmas.

I heard a sermon in which the preacher pointed out that the church calendar for the days after Christmas had “streaks of red” recognizing those who suffered and died for Christ,

Stephen
Stoning of St. Stephen by Rembrandt

December 26th is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  Martyr was a word that meant “witness,” but over time gained the meaning of shedding one’s blood in faithful proclamation of Christ.

December 28th (it will be on the 29th this year, as December 27th is the First Sunday after Christmas and will bump the Feast of St. John to the 28th) is the commemoration of the Holy Innocents, the male children of Bethlehem killed on order of King Herod in his fear of a newborn king.

Holy Innocents
Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens

It is not difficult to move in thought, prayer and anxiety from the pages of the Bible to the present day.  There are many Stephens right now all around the world, choosing death or simply suffering it because they believe that the Word of God, the Son bearing the glory, grace and truth of the heavenly Father, was born to share and save our flesh and blood.  (John 1:14)

There are many innocents right now, like those in Bethlehem too little to be evaluated for faith or virtue but suffering at the hands of a “grown up world” that rejects the good.  Israel’s Yad Vashem Museum presently features the personal albums of children thrown into the Holocaust.  The many children of diverse races and creeds killed or suffering deprivation in the world’s current conflicts and the millions of victims of the abortion culture, in some cultures targeting girls just as Herod sought out boys, stain our world with blood guilt.

The birth of Christ Jesus was one action in God’s strategic campaign to rescue our race from enslavement to sin and death.  He enlists us in that active work, so let us pray for those who are suffering.  Let us give and work to resist and heal the world’s violence.   Like Stephen, let us shine the white and festive light of Christ on a red streaked world, even on those with bloody hands,

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.  (Acts 7:59-60, NRSV)

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