Saturday 26 December 2020Advent 4Stephen, deacon, first martyrYear B

Gracious Father,

who gave the first martyr Stephen 

grace to pray for those who took up stones against him:

grant that in all our sufferings for the truth

we may learn to love even our enemies

and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt,

looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us,

Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.Readings2 Chronicles 24.20-22

20 Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, ‘Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you.’ 21But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord. 22King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. As he was dying, he said, ‘May the Lord see and avenge!’This is the word of the Lord.AllThanks be to God.or Acts 7.51-end

51 ‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. 52Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. 53You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.’

54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.This is the word of the Lord.AllThanks be to God.Psalm 119.161-168

161  Princes have persecuted me without a cause, •
   but my heart stands in awe of your word.
162  I am as glad of your word •
   as one who finds great spoils.
163  As for lies, I hate and abhor them, •
   but your law do I love.
164  Seven times a day do I praise you, •
   because of your righteous judgements.
165  Great peace have they who love your law; •
   nothing shall make them stumble.
166  Lord, I have looked for your salvation •
   and I have fulfilled your commandments.
167  My soul has kept your testimonies •
   and greatly have I loved them.
168  I have kept your commandments and testimonies, •
   for all my ways are before you.
Acts 7.51-end

51 ‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. 52Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. 53You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.’

54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.This is the word of the Lord.AllThanks be to God.or Galatians 2.16b-20

16yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.This is the word of the Lord.AllThanks be to God.Gospel ReadingHear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.AllGlory to you, O Lord.Matthew 10.17-22

17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.This is the Gospel of the Lord.AllPraise to you, O Christ.Post Communion

Merciful Lord,

we thank you for the signs of your mercy

revealed in birth and death:

save us by the coming of your Son,

and give us joy in honouring Stephen,

first martyr of the new Israel;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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