THE WORD IS
The fields of Bethlehem. Christmas Eve. The song of the angels resounding in the heavens. The shepherds hasten to see the Christ Child. They return rejoicing with peace in their hearts. There is also peace under the skies of Israel. But then follows the massacre of Bethlehem's children. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit brings peace of conscience to three thousand people, but they are then confronted by the hatred and persecution of the unbelieving world. The Christmas spirit disappears the day after Christmas, St. Stephen's Day. The stoning of Stephen and the massacre of Bethlehem's innocent children cause us to face the disturbing truth: Outward peace lasts only for a time. The world does not receive the Prince of Peace, but rather wishes to remain God's enemy. For this reason it is also hostile toward those who spread the message of peace.
Saul of Tarsus was full of fury toward the Christians. He watched the stoning of Stephen. Stephen prayed with words of reconciliation on his lips: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" But at that time his prayer had no effect on Saul. He was convinced that he had to keep on fighting against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. He felt no pangs of conscience. Having received authority from the high priest, he put many saints into prison. The Romans had given the Jewish high priest and the Sanhedrin extensive authority to ajudicate in the internal affairs of the Jews. Saul had been accepted as a member of the Sanhedrin already when he was very young. "When saints were being put to death", confesses Paul or the former Saul, "I cast my vote against them" (Acts 26:10). But when he said this he was no longer boasting, but was rather confessing his sin. The message of peace had entered Paul's heart. He could no longer persecute God's Church. He now loved the Jesus that he had hated before.
Would that the present day Sauls would become Pauls! Would that God would not hold those who voted for the liberal abortion laws of our time eternally guilty, but would permit them to find Bethlehem's Jesus. The blood of the innocents cries unto heaven, but so too does the blood of Christ. The blood of the innocents cries for vengeance, but Jesus' blood cries for reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. He who rejects Christ, rejects reconciliation and will on the Last Day be judged according to his works. But he who flees to Christ for refuge will be saved. How desparately we need courageous Christians, who like Paul, have the courage to confess their mistakes before God, and men who are ready to follow the example of Paul and Stephen and spread the message of salvation. Dear Lord, do not forsake us because of our sins, but give us courageous confessors of the Truth.