Joy to the World?

A reading for Thursday, December 26, 2013: Acts 7:59-8:8

As a child I can still remember how disappointing it was to wake up on the day after Christmas and suddenly realize it was all over for another year.  All the anticipation and waiting leading up to the big day.  The joy of family gathering, special food, and of course presents made it the most exciting day of the whole year.  Then it was over... for a whole year, we would have to wait for another whole year!

Even after Jesus was born.  After he lived, teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God.  Even after he died for the sins of all.  After God raised him from the dead and he appeared to the disciples to prove the Kingdom of God had in fact come in him... even after all that, there was still suffering and tragedy.  Stephen, one of the beloved, was stoned to death for following Jesus.

Imagine the disappointment of those following Jesus to realize that all was not yet as it should be.  In spite of everything that happened, Stephen still died.  Power was still power, and hate was still hate.  Saul was ravaging the church.  Even after all Jesus had done, the church would still have to wait for peace to be realized in full.

Yet, the very same text that reports the death of Stephen follows with the report that many were still scattered about proclaiming the message of Jesus.  One of these was Philip and because of the message he brought there was great joy in the city of Samaria.  Even in the midst of suffering, joy was found among the believers.

I can remember even as a child, the feeling of disappointment of the day after Christmas didn't last very long.  Even in those days I can remember understanding the point of it all.  The joy of Christmas can last far longer than a single day or a single season.  There is joy in the city amidst the suffering.  That joy is Jesus Christ.


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