The Holy Martyrs of Christmas Tide
Strange as it might seem to the world, and perhaps even to many Christians, the several festivals that occur on the second, third, and fourth days of Christmas, respectively – that is, the festivals of St. Stephen, Martyr (December 26), St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (December 28) – have been wedded to the celebration of our Lord’s Holy Nativity. These days set before us three different kinds of martyr: St. Stephen is martyred in both his will and his body; St. John is martyred in his will but not in his body; and the Holy Innocents are martyred in their bodies but not in their will. The celebration of these holy martyrs in these early days of Christmas can be jarring to people but observing their festival days highlights the contrast and conflict between the Light of Christ Jesus and the darkness of sin and death in this fallen and perishing world (John 1:5, 9–11). As the Son of God came down from heaven and became Flesh to suffer and die for the sins of the world, so do His people, His children of all ages (from the womb and the cradle to the casket and the tomb), bear His Cross and suffer with Him in this poor life of labor. It is a blessing and benefit, therefore, to observe these festivals where possible in the life of the Church on earth, whether as they occur on the Lord’s Day in any given year or during the week, as occasion and opportunity permit within each congregation. In any case, God grant us by the grace of His Word and Holy Spirit to will and to do according to His good pleasure, come what may in this body and life under the Cross of His incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.