Today is the Feast of St. Stephen in the Catholic Church. Stephen, full of grace and power, is the first martyr of the faith. Testifying to his belief that Jesus is the Son of God, he is thrown out of the city and stoned to death. We move from yesterday’s joy of the celebration of the Christ Child in the crib to the sobering understanding of the cross. As Christians, we hold this paradox in open hands. Jesus came to bring life to the fullest–and to die on the cross. This Infinite Infant is laid in a wooden cradle or trough in a stable but the wood of the cross is the real reason Christ came.
I love this image of the cross above that captures our faith so beautifully. The context of Christmas cannot be comprehended without the construct of the Crucifixion. Today’s feast helps us understand this. It shakes off the shepherds’ awe and allows us also to accept that the Son of Man stands at the right hand of God. Christmas is always connected to Good Friday and Easter. We celebrate the birth of Christ because he is our Saviour who will die on a cross.
This beautiful Babe will suffer. For 30 years, Jesus will live a quiet life once he settles into his home with his family. Of course, prior to that they will have to flee for their lives and remain in a strange country. He will be recognized several times by holy, yet ordinary, faith-filled people as a special Child. However, eventually, nothing will be heard from his for about 20 years. When he returns to the spotlight, three years will pass with stories of healing and miracles. Then that Blessed Babe will be hoisted up on a cross and die for us. That is a cause for rejoicing, oddly enough, because it is an act of supreme Love. From the cradle to the cross, Christ has us.
What connection do you see between the cradle and the cross?
Are we also willing to lay down our lives for Christ?
From the cradle to the cross, may we adore you, Infinite Infant. We thank you for the gift of St. Stephen and the many models of faith in that great cloud of witnesses that go before us. May we always rejoice in the Gift of the great Love that came down that holy night.