The Second Day of Christmas can remind us of what some of us have forgotten.
We all know The Twelve Days of Christmas. In some Western church traditions, Christmas is the First Day. Today, December 26th, is the Second Day of Christmas, often called Saint Stephen’s Day (or the Feast of Saint Stephen) to commemorate the first martyr: Stephen.
How odd: one day after we celebrate a jubilant birth, we commemorate a horrific death. Being stoned was a slow and cruel death. That’s how Stephen was murdered.
But maybe The Second Day isn’t so odd. It might remind us of how the first Two Days of Christmas are tied together. We see this in Revelation 12 where a woman is about to give birth. She’s tortured with pain, reminding us of God’s oracle to the woman after the fall (I will sharply increase your pain in childbirth). We’re further reminded of this as a dragon appears. His tail has swept a third of the stars out of heaven and flung them to the earth.
When did this happen? Read Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. The dragon is the slithering serpent known as Lucifer, the devil. Before the earth was created, Lucifer led a rebellion against God. It was all-out cosmic warfare. One-third of the angelic realm pledged allegiance to Lucifer. The rest of the angels remained loyal to God. God won. The devil lost. Lucifer and his angels were cast to earth, becoming fallen angels, or demons.
That’s why the earth was originally “formless and void,” a Hebrew phrase with ominous overtones of God’s judgment (Gen.1:2).[i] Evil is lurking in the bushes. But its energy is only potential. Evil is not released until Lucifer deceives Eve, then Adam. The old war resumes.
It’s murderous. In Revelation we see Lucifer crouching greedily before the woman who is about to give birth. His blood-stained hands stand ready to murder the newborn child. Miraculously, the infant is carried away to safety. A headlong flight into Egypt ensues, with demons on the tail of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They don’t get ‘em. Foiled, the serpent slithers off, seething with furious hatred. The story closes with an image of Lucifer scanning the horizon, declaring murderous war on the followers of the Christ child.
Those followers include Stephen. They include us, followers of Christ.
That’s the Christmas story. That’s The Second Day of Christmas. It reminds us of Martin Luther’s great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. For still our ancient foe / Doth seek to work us woe; / His craft and power are great, / And, armed with cruel hate, / On earth is not his equal. This reminds me of what G. K. Chesterton wrote: “The fun of Christmas is founded on the seriousness of Christmas.” The fun of Christmas is twelve days long. The seriousness follows the First Day, the jubilant birth of Christ. It’s the Second Day of Christmas, Saint Stephen’s Day, when we commemorate the first Christian martyr, Stephen.
[i] Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Baker, 1988), 106.