In many parts of the world December 26th is celebrated as "boxing day." No, it's not a day to celebrate the heavyweight champion. Traditionally, it was the day when people would give a Christmas "box" to those in need, or to those in service positions. More recently it has become the day to shop the after-Christmas sales, and to "box up" and return unwanted Christmas presents.
This day is also the day when the church recognizes the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church. The account of Stephen is found in Acts 7. Stephen had recently been selected as a deacon in Acts 6, and quickly found himself at odds with some of the local Jewish authorities. After a passionate sermon from Stephen, these authorities were not pleased with what they heard and proceeded to stone Stephen.
How do these two things, boxing day and St. Stephen's feast day, relate? We all have at one point or another received a gift we didn't want, something we may have boxed up and returned. But the gifts of God are not things we would want to return. In the birth of Jesus, God gives Himself to us, the greatest gift we could receive. Through His death and resurrection God gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation. The world would have us deny those gifts. In the face of persecution and even death, St. Stephen held fast to the gifts and promises of Jesus. May we also deny ourselves and hold as precious the gifts our Lord gives us in Christ Jesus.
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