Our First Martyr, Saint Stephen

For the past few days people have been singing joyful songs around the world to celebrate Christmas. We have feasted and celebrated the nativity of the Christ Child in many different ways, with joy and gratitude for the gift of Christ’s birth. But today all of our celebrating takes an interesting turn when we hear from Jesus himself, the very same Jesus born in a manger in Bethlehem, who says: “You will be hated by all because of my name.” (Matthew 10:22)

What a stark contrast between all the feasting and celebrating and hearing these words!

Someone who lived in the contrast between the celebration of Christmas and the persecution that comes with total commitment to Christ was Saint Stephen, the first martyr, whose feast we celebrate today. Saint Stephen lived as a holy, joyful, spirit-filled witness to the love and life of Jesus Christ. He was eventually stoned to death for his faith not long after the death of Jesus.

The life and death of Saint Stephen remind us that indeed, the world will hate those who follow and proclaim the good news of Christ. Those who choose to follow the baby born to a virgin in Bethlehem will be challenged in monumental ways. We may be persecuted, ostracized, ridiculed, and some of us even killed for the sake of this tiny child.

But today we remember, most especially, that the baby born in a stable was sent to save Saint Stephen—that this baby was sent to save you and me—and that there is nothing to fear in being hated for living a life in pursuit of the love of Jesus Christ. We remember Christ’s words, that “whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22)—which makes both Christmas and the fact that we will be hated because of the name of Christ cause for great celebration.

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Emily Wilson-Hussem planned her whole life to become a sports reporter but turned out to be a Catholic musician and speaker at the hand of God. She lives out of her suitcase and travels across the world speaking to people of all ages. The heart of her ministry is offering encouragement to teen girls in search of their true identity, and she loves every second of it. She is the author of I Choose the Sky. You can find out more about her here.