In the Christian tradition, from the Great Tradition, some feast days follow Christmas, which can seem to be head scratchers. There is the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. And today the Feast of the Holy Innocents, who are considered martyrs as well, preceeding Stephen, so that in a sense we could say that they were the first martyrs of the faith. We feast, but we do so as those who have not yet arrived to the fullness of joy to come, but live in something of what Paul experienced:
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing
We take comfort in God’s care and vindication of what is right and true, all given to us in and through Jesus in much grace. God sees and understands, and in spite of our unworthiness, God helps us to want to follow to the end, with the knowledge that he will see us through even death itself, even if it comes through martyrdom.
Jesus has come so that someday death is to be no more. In the meantime, we do grieve and we struggle, all in the joy which God gives us in Jesus. It is something like the mix of Paul’s great letter to the Philippians, much joy and rejoicing in the midst of a life in Christ which inherently faces suffering in this life, in the way of Jesus, in the way of the cross. At the same time knowing something of the power of our Lord’s resurrection together as God’s people. As we celebrate the one who has come.