December 26th, 2018

St. Stephen the Martyr

Collect (LSB)

Heavenly Father, in the midst of our sufferings for the sake of Christ grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Old Testament (LSB): 2 Chron. 24:17-22

The Wickedness of Joash

 17 After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. 18 They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God's anger came upon Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen.

 20 Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, "This is what God says: 'Why do you disobey the LORD's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.' "

 21 But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD's temple. 22 King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah's father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, "May the LORD see this and call you to account."

Epistle: Acts 6:8-15; Acts 7:54-60

Stephen Seized

 8Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.

 11Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God."

 12So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."

 15All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

The Stoning of Stephen

 54When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

 57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

 59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Gospel: Matt. 23:34-39

34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

 37"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'[a]"

Footnotes:Matthew 23:39 Psalm 118:26

First Reading: Is. 49:22-26; Is. 50:4-51:8; Is. 51:12-16

 22 This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
       "See, I will beckon to the Gentiles,
       I will lift up my banner to the peoples;
       they will bring your sons in their arms
       and carry your daughters on their shoulders.

 23 Kings will be your foster fathers,
       and their queens your nursing mothers.
       They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
       they will lick the dust at your feet.
       Then you will know that I am the LORD;
       those who hope in me will not be disappointed."

 24 Can plunder be taken from warriors,
       or captives rescued from the fierce [a] ?

 25 But this is what the LORD says:
       "Yes, captives will be taken from warriors,
       and plunder retrieved from the fierce;
       I will contend with those who contend with you,
       and your children I will save.

 26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh;
       they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine.
       Then all mankind will know
       that I, the LORD, am your Savior,
       your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Footnotes:Isaiah 49:24 Dead Sea Scrolls, Vulgate and Syriac (see also Septuagint and verse 25 Masoretic Text righteous

 4 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue,
       to know the word that sustains the weary.
       He wakens me morning by morning,
       wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

 5 The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears,
       and I have not been rebellious;
       I have not drawn back.

 6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
       my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
       I did not hide my face
       from mocking and spitting.

 7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me,
       I will not be disgraced.
       Therefore have I set my face like flint,
       and I know I will not be put to shame.

 8 He who vindicates me is near.
       Who then will bring charges against me?
       Let us face each other!
       Who is my accuser?
       Let him confront me!

 9 It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me.
       Who is he that will condemn me?
       They will all wear out like a garment;
       the moths will eat them up.

 10 Who among you fears the LORD
       and obeys the word of his servant?
       Let him who walks in the dark,
       who has no light,
       trust in the name of the LORD
       and rely on his God.

 11 But now, all you who light fires
       and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
       go, walk in the light of your fires
       and of the torches you have set ablaze.
       This is what you shall receive from my hand:
       You will lie down in torment.

Everlasting Salvation for Zion
 1 "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
       and who seek the LORD :
       Look to the rock from which you were cut
       and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

 2 look to Abraham, your father,
       and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
       When I called him he was but one,
       and I blessed him and made him many.

 3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion
       and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
       he will make her deserts like Eden,
       her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
       Joy and gladness will be found in her,
       thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

 4 "Listen to me, my people;
       hear me, my nation:
       The law will go out from me;
       my justice will become a light to the nations.

 5 My righteousness draws near speedily,
       my salvation is on the way,
       and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
       The islands will look to me
       and wait in hope for my arm.

 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
       look at the earth beneath;
       the heavens will vanish like smoke,
       the earth will wear out like a garment
       and its inhabitants die like flies.
       But my salvation will last forever,
       my righteousness will never fail.

 7 "Hear me, you who know what is right,
       you people who have my law in your hearts:
       Do not fear the reproach of men
       or be terrified by their insults.

 8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
       the worm will devour them like wool.
       But my righteousness will last forever,
       my salvation through all generations."

 12 "I, even I, am he who comforts you.
       Who are you that you fear mortal men,
       the sons of men, who are but grass,

 13 that you forget the LORD your Maker,
       who stretched out the heavens
       and laid the foundations of the earth,
       that you live in constant terror every day
       because of the wrath of the oppressor,
       who is bent on destruction?
       For where is the wrath of the oppressor?

 14 The cowering prisoners will soon be set free;
       they will not die in their dungeon,
       nor will they lack bread.

 15 For I am the LORD your God,
       who churns up the sea so that its waves roar—
       the LORD Almighty is his name.

 16 I have put my words in your mouth
       and covered you with the shadow of my hand—
       I who set the heavens in place,
       who laid the foundations of the earth,
       and who say to Zion, 'You are my people.' "

Second Reading: Matt. 1:18-25

The Birth of Jesus Christ

 18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

 20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins."

 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"[b]—which means, "God with us."

 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Footnotes:Matthew 1:21 Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves. Matthew 1:23 Isaiah 7:14


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