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Today is the Feast of St. Stephen. There is an old Christian saying that goes, "Yesterday Christ was born in the world, so that today Stephen would be born in heaven."
The Son of God became man in order that man may live eternally with God. The Son of God became man in order that He could live in a way that no man could live; perfectly according to the Law. Jesus lived in perfect and joyful obedience to the Law of His Father. He kept all the commandments, not just in outward appearances, but in inward piety as well. In this perfect obedience, Jesus then kept His mouth shut as accusers and hypocrites slandered His Name and lied about His goodness toward men. He kept His tongue glued to the roof of His mouth as He carried the cross to Golgotha where He would do the work necessary to free all man from sin, death, world, and the power of the devil. There, on the cross, Jesus paid the needed price of His blood, by laying down His life in sacrificial love for all who have and will ever transgress the Law of God. There, on the cross, Jesus did the work for which He was born to do, to purchase salvation for us. From there, Jesus descended into hell, declaring victory forever over hell and the devil. Then, death itself lost its sting as Jesus rose from the grace, forever stripping the tomb of its gloom. Jesus is now ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father, sending out His apostles on His behalf to forgive the sins He died for on the cross.
It is in this forgiven and joyous state that St. Stephen boldly confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Stephen confessed that salvation is in Jesus alone. He was, like His Lord, accused and slandered, lied about, and rather than crucified, dragged outside the city like a pagan and stoned to death. As Stephen receiving the rocks, he didn't fight back, but prayed to God to hold not their sins against them. As the last stone struck Stephen, rather than dying, He looked to heaven and saw His Lord, and then fell asleep in Christ. For death was now for Stephen, as it is for all who are in Christ, not an end, but the beginning of heavenly life. Christ was born into this world in order that those whose sins are forgiven may be born in heaven. Stephen means garland or crown. Stephen was crowned with the righteousness of Christ in life, in death, and now is crowned forever in the righteousness of Jesus as he lives in heaven.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the peaceful voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "I forgive you. I love you. I claim you as My own forever," Amen.