This title is not what you’re thinking, so stick with me.
Today marks a pretty important day in Australia - the Boxing Day Test. Whether you’re a Brit or an Aussie, I can guarantee that in homes all across the country people will be emerging from their Christmas Day food coma, nabbing the best seat on the couch and settling in for a long day of watching the cricket. Of course, tea breaks are the best time to throw in a water fight, play some backyard cricket or grab some leftovers from the fridge. It’s a time-worn tradition.
But believe it or not, today also important for another reason. ‘Really? Like what??’ Well, it’s actually the feast day of Saint Stephen. True fact. And yet the only time we really hear about this guy Stephen in the bible is just before he dies. Not exactly the kind of topic that goes well with new socks, left-over Christmas chocolates and a sunny day on the beach. So, what’s the deal?
Just to catch you up, Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr, a young guy stoned to death by an angry mob for saying what he thought. You know, your standard Christmas story. NOT. As a follower of Jesus, Stephen was accused of speaking blasphemy. But instead of reacting badly, he responded patiently by detailing all good things God had done throughout history. He quoted the scriptures, mentioned the Jewish laws, and eventually called out the crowd for killing Jesus. He ended with his own mic drop moment: telling the crowd that he saw a vision of heaven with Jesus sitting at the right hand of God.
Yeah, that didn’t go down well. They killed him after that.
Stephen’s death was hard-core, no doubt. But it ended up being the push of confidence the early Christian’s needed to start speaking up publicly for their faith in Jesus. There are plenty of times I know that I’ve struggled to stand up for what I believe in – whether in my faith, confronting a bully, or speaking to a friend who I’ve fallen out with. But I’ve never had to face physical stones - let alone certain death – which is what these guys faced.
So why Saint Stephen today, of all days? Shouldn’t we be stashing presents and taking out the wheely bin (to help mum with the clean-up, but mostly to use as stumps)?
Maybe this is God’s subtle way of reminding us that the ‘cute baby’ we just sang ‘Silent Night’ for under the tree came to lead a revolution – a revolution of radical life and courageous faith. A faith that cannot be silenced. A faith that speaks in the midst of opposition because it can see something others cannot see. A patient faith. A bold faith. A faith like Stephen’s.
I have some personal goals for today, and the first one is to go for six-and-out in a game of backyard cricket. Thank God, the only stones l will have to face down today are the small, red, round kind with a bat. But my second goal today is to celebrate the life of the young Saint called Stephen, and pray that, like him, I can hit an even more courageous ‘six-and-out’ in the larger game of faith and life.
So. Anyone else wanna play?