O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings has ordained strength, and made infants to glorify you by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by your grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
ALMIGHTY God, who has given us your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit forever, one God, world without end.
Jeremiah 31:1-17; Psalm 124; Revelation 14:1-5; Matthew 2:13-18
If St. Stephen was an odd choice to celebrate on the heels of Christmas Day, remembering the infants who were slaughtered by King Herod seems even stranger. Nevertheless even as a baby Jesus’ life was in danger, and the ruthless powers of this world were willing to sacrifice innocent lives in the attempt to destroy him. The Gospel writer observes that this event is a fulfillment of a prophecy by Jeremiah, which was the Old Testament reading today. There we find this moment of intense suffering in the midst of a great many promises: God will restore his people and make them prosperous and safe, and fill them with hope and peace. The Psalm and the reading from Revelation, then, encourage us to put ourselves in the place of those innocent children. We are called to be spotless and pure, to rid ourselves of “all vices” in order to more perfectly love and glorify God in the life to come.