Today is Boxing Day – it is an English tradition, celebrated in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, parts of Africa, and for some like me in the US, that Christmas Day be reserved for the immediate family. But, on the next day, December 26th, gifts are exchanged between extended family and neighbors. It began in the Middle Ages when lords ruled over huge estates, which included farms and towns. They would give a gift box to each of the families who worked the land or were servants in the manor or township. In it were rations for living, like candle wax, flour and sugar, and a little gift. After a while, the people would give their lord a small gift as well in thanksgiving for all he had done for them.
Today is also St. Stephen’s Day. He was the first Christian killed for speaking out about Jesus. He gave his LORD the ultimate gift. In exchange, his faith and words have been recorded in Acts for all of us –
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60 ESV)
God gave Stephen a heavenly gift- a vision of Jesus waiting for him. Stephen, in his dying breath, gave his attackers a gift- he pleaded for God to forgive them.
Today, my extended family will gather for gift exchanges and a pot luck dinner. It is our tradition. But, boxed up in all of that is the gift of gratitude for the sacrifices others have given so we may learn about Jesus and receive Him into our hearts. Yesterday, he was born. Today, we are called to offer Him to all, and give Him to any who will receive Him. For, we have received the ultimate gift from our LORD – the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. In thanksgiving for all He did for us, should we not offer Him the gift of our lives in return?
Happy Boxing Day.