Here is part of the account of Stephen’s death: ‘He, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep’.

Stephen’s last words were words of forgiveness for those who were killing him, just like His Lord, who said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.

The joy of the Incarnation passes quickly into days of sorrow as we commemorate St Stephen and, on Monday, the Holy Innocents. Always we need to hold these two essential elements of joy and sorrow together in our Christian pilgrimage.

As we enter more deeply in these days into the Christmas mystery, may St Stephen pray for us in all our challenges, and may God bless you this day.