Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Church, chosen to aid in the distribution of food to those in need, so that the Apostles could continue their work. He was a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit, and was unafraid to speak the truth. And that, of course, is what brings him to today’s celebration. His unwillingness to cover over the truth and his powerful, indisputable words, did not make him friends with everyone, to say the least. He was stoned to death, an event in which we see perhaps the beginning of the conversion of a man named Saul, who of course, we know, later becomes Saint Paul.
The truth may, as Jesus tells us, set us free, but not without cost. Saint Stephen, and later Saint Paul of course, paid for it with their lives, as Jesus did. But covering over the truth or refusing to speak the truth would have been death of a far worse kind: a death that had no hope of salvation. Giving his life for the truth and for the faith united Saint Stephen forever with his God, who was his salvation and his joy.
And so on this Christmas day, we are reminded that Christ came to bring the truth, and that that truth would change everything, which, sadly, is not always a welcome thing. The gift of this Christmas day is the truth, given to us to guard and proclaim and shout without fear. It is the Spirit who gives us the words of truth to say in any situation, that same Spirit who gave Jesus to Mary in the first place. We too rely on that same Spirit to help us fearlessly witness to the truth, fixing our eyes as Saint Stephen did on Christ, the Son of Man, standing at the right hand of God.