I know you’ve sung it and not known what you were singing:
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even…
This Christmas carol is actually talking about the day after Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen.
Stephen makes his short appearance in Christian history in the book Acts of the Apostles, and is known as being the first martyr of the faith. He’s stoned by marauding religious leaders, one of them being a man named Saul who would undergo his own crisis, but his would be a crisis of faith as he turned his name to Paul and gave his life to promoting the Gospel of Christ.
Why would St. Stephen’s feast day follow Christmas? Why would a day of such joy, Christmas, be followed by tragedy?
In the wisdom of the liturgical calendar, the church mothers and fathers placed these days close to one another for a reason: to remind us that it is for tragedies such as Stephen’s, tragedies of life, that Christ came into the world.
The days following Christmas are marked by the need for redemption, and we should not forget that.
For as much celebration as you had yesterday, there were many who weren’t able to celebrate. They were in jail. Or they were consumed in abusive relationships. Or they were so hung over, just like they were the day before and the day before that. Or they were waking up from a crash. Or…no need to go on.
The Christmas story begins, “In those days there came a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be taxed…”
Christmas, Christ, came for “those days” of our lives. We should not forget that.
On the Feast of Stephen it is appropriate to take a little bit of the joy of Christmas, the joy that you had yesterday, and share it with someone else. Write a note to someone you know who might be having a hard season. Or write a note to someone you don’t know in prison or ill, someone your pastor or chaplain may know. Today is a day to give of the joy even as we continue to celebrate it.
Question for reflection: How can I honor the joy of Christmas by sharing it today?