Armodoxy for Today: Stephen – Advent
Another Christmas Carol with lyrics that often go unnoticed is Good King Wenceslas, who, “looked out on the Feast of Stephen when the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even…” The Feast of Stephen is traditionally on December 26 and the Armenian Church celebrates this first century saint’s day either on the 25th or the 26th, depending on the year.
Yesterday in our Advent Journey we began counting down the 12 days of Christmas and with the “partridge in a pear tree” we started a trip to the physical reality that is the purpose of every spiritual journey. In other words, the spiritual strengthening we receive through discipline has a reason and a purpose: to help us in our daily struggles in this world and to allow us to better understand and communicate with our brothers and sisters.
St. Stephen is known as the first martyr of the Christian Church. In Armenian the word “Nakhav’ka” is used for the first martyr but the word also is used as the first “witness” implying that in martyrdom St. Stephen became the first witness for Christ. In the early Church, faith was demonstrated through actions.
The other distinction that sets St. Stephen apart is that he was the first to accept the call to serve through the diaconate. He was the first deacon, according to the Holy Scriptures. In the Acts of the Apostles chapter 6, we read that the first deacons were selected to assist at the distribution of the meals in the Christian community. Reading this passage of scripture we understand that action, tending to the physical needs of the community is part of the Church’s mission. The Church as the Body of Christ, does not operate in the clouds, its responsibility is with people in this world.
As we approach the message of the Nativity we focus on God becoming Man to reach out to us, His creation. Jesus asks, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table?” And just as we are ready to answer the obvious, he says, “But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 20:27)
The selection of the deacons in Acts 6 takes place a few months after the Resurrection of Christ. It is most important to note that the Christian Church was taking form, the deacons to help the apostles, the bishops to continue the mission of the Apostles and the priests to ministry to the people.
It is the second day of Christmas: Two turtle doves are a nice reminder of our need to straddle our spiritual and physical realities in our Advent Journey.
We pray, Lord Jesus Christ, you did not abandon us, but set up your Church, your Holy Body, to bring your message home to new generations to come. In the spirit of St. Stephen, help me find my mission and my purpose, to follow your example of serving as an expression of my love. Lord, help me. Amen.