By Jason Michael
They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.
Acts of the Apostles 6: 5-6
Stephen’s Day, the memorial of the first martyr, hasn’t made much sense to me planked in the festive season where it is. We all wait up for the stroke of midnight singing the finest hymns in the hymnal, traipsing the streets belting out carols, and then tearing open the spoils Santa has left under our tree. A week later we have Hogmanay, the bells, and the morning after we need 365 days from which to recover. And stuck in the middle of this festive mayhem is the sad tale of Stephen, who gets pelted with boulders. It’s a bit out of place really. Remembering him when we do never made much sense to me. It made sense today.
Every day across Scotland – and even in Ireland, England, and Wales – organisations like the Trussell Trust make sure that hungry people get something to eat. Foodbanks in community centres and parish halls are in operation every day of the year, come rain or shine, even on Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day. The Acts of the Apostles becomes Acts of Kindness as people of all faiths and none, from every imaginable background and walk in life volunteer to do the hardest things – things I would rather be cut down with bricks than have to witness again; handing a loaf of Mother’s Pride to someone who has nothing else to eat, to someone who looks delighted, insulted, ashamed, and grateful all at once.
No one should be hungry, ever, let alone at Christmas. The more I see it and think about it the angrier and more frustrated I get. On Boxing Day it’s such a shame we’re commemorating a brave young lad who lost his life handing out food. It would be a better story altogether if we were celebrating a Stephen who was throwing blocks of masonry at the fat, indifferent government ministers and civil servants who had reduced these people – our people – to starvation. It might make a little more sense, but it’s no consolation to think that our stories are always about the losing side, and still today there’s a million Stephens and Stephanies making sure everyone on the losing side gets fed.
Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)