Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Holy Communion on St Stephen's Day: December 26, 2021

The livestream may be found here.



The color red, used for the paraments and vestments on a martyr’s feast day, is reminiscent of the blood of those who lost their lives for Christ, but also the fire of the Holy Spirit which inspired their fearless witness.


OLD TESTAMENT: The role of a prophet is to speak God’s word to his people, whether or not God’s people listen. Here Zechariah the prophet warns the people against idolatry; but those in authority stone him to death so that they may not lose their power. Zechariah puts his trust in the God who sees all and who will render judgment.


NEW TESTAMENT: Today’s excerpt from Acts skips a large section of Scripture in which Stephen re-tells the story of Israel, putting emphasis on the unfaithfulness and idolatry of the people. Instead of enticing his hearers with comforting words, he wants to shock them into realization that they are acting in the same manner as those faithless ones in Israel’s past. However, he would well have known that the same fate that befell Zechariah could easily befall him, and this is what happens. Stephen’s last words resemble Zechariah’s invocation of God’s seeing eye, but more importantly, they echo Jesus’ own cry from the cross: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34).


GOSPEL: Jesus warns his disciples that persecution will be the lot of those who bear witness to him. Just as the innocent and the prophets from A to Z (Abel to Zechariah) were killed, so will some of his disciples be killed. But when people see the coming of the Son of Man, and say, ‘Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord!’, all will rise to be judged. We pray, with Stephen, that God’s judgment is merciful and that many who have sinned in ignorance will be received together with the saints.


OPENING MUSIC                                                 Good Christian Friends, Rejoice 

I.                    Robert B. Smith

II.                  Paul Manz



Good Christian Friends, Rejoice                                      Green LBW 55


 1      Good Christian friends, rejoice

        with heart and soul and voice;

        give ye heed to what we say:

        Jesus Christ is born today;

        ox and ass before him bow,

        and he is in the manger now.

        Christ is born today!

        Christ is born today!


2      Good Christian friends, rejoice

        with heart and soul and voice;

        now ye hear of endless bliss:

        Jesus Christ was born for this!

        He has opened heaven's door,

        and we are blest forevermore.

        Christ was born for this!

        Christ was born for this!


3      Good Christian friends, rejoice

        with heart and soul and voice;

        now ye need not fear the grave;

        Jesus Christ was born to save!

        Calls you one and calls you all

        to gain the everlasting hall.

        Christ was born to save!

        Christ was born to save!





The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion

of the Holy Spirit be with you all.


 A             In peace, let us pray to the Lord.


C             Lord, have mercy.


A             For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord.


C             Lord, have mercy.


A             For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the Church of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.


C             Lord, have mercy.


A             For this holy house, and for all who offer here their worship and praise, let us pray to the Lord.


C             Lord, have mercy.


A             Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord.


C             Amen




 A             Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.


C             Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God and Father:

                                We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.

                Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God:

                                You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.

                                You are seated at the right hand of the Father; receive our prayer.

                For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,

                                you alone are the Most High,

                Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen


P              The Lord be with you.


C             And also with you.

Grant us grace, O Lord, that like Stephen we may learn to love even our enemies and seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.




God sent prophets to bring the people back to the Lord.    2 Chron. 24:19

  Let us hear the Word of the Lord.



FIRST READING                                                        2 Chronicles 24:17-22


17Now after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and did obeisance to the king; then the king listened to them. 18They abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and served the sacred poles and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. 19Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord; they testified against them, but they would not listen. 20Then 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!”


The Word of the Lord.                                                                                                    

  Thanks be to God.


HYMN                By All Your Saints in Warfare                                      Green LBW 177

Stanzas 1, 7, 3


1      By all your saints in warfare,

        for all your saints at rest,

        your holy name, O Jesus,

        forevermore be blest!

        For you have won the battle

        that they might wear the crown;

        and now they shine in glory

        reflected from your throne.


St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

2      Praise for the first of martyrs

        who saw you ready stand

        to help in time of torment,

        to plead at God’s right hand.

        They share with him who, steadfast,

        in death their master own,

        on earth the faithful witness,

        on high the martyr’s crown.


3      Then let us praise the Father

        and worship God the Son

        and sing to God the Spirit,

        eternal Three in One,

        till all the ransomed number

        fall down before the throne,

        ascribing pow’r and glory

        and praise to God alone.

SECOND READING                                                        Acts 6:8—7:2a, 51-60


8Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. 13They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” 15And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. 7:1Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” 2aAnd Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me…

 51“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever 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.” 54When 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.


The Word of the Lord.                                                                                                    

  Thanks be to God.



VERSE                Matthew 5:10                           Setting by Richard Hillert

Alleluia. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Alleluia.


Gospel                                                                             Matthew 23:34-39


The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.

C             Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus said:

 34Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation. 37“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”


The Gospel of the Lord.

C             Praise to you, O Christ.





X Hymn of the DaY

                The Son of God Goes Forth to War                                Green LBW 183              

 1      The Son of God goes forth to war

        a kingly crown to gain.

        His blood-red banner streams afar;

        who follows in his train?

        Who best can drink his cup of woe,

        triumphant over pain;

        who patient bears his cross below--

        he follows in his train.


2      The martyr first, whose eagle eye

        could pierce beyond the grave,

        who saw his master in the sky

        and called on him to save.

        Like him, with pardon on his tongue

        in midst of mortal pain,

        he prayed for those who did the wrong--

        who follows in his train?


3      A glorious band, the chosen few,

        on whom the Spirit came,

        twelve valiant saints; their hope they knew

        and mocked the cross and flame.

        They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,

        the lion’s gory mane;

        they bowed their necks the death to feel--

        who follows in their train?


4     A noble army, girls and boys,

        with men and women saved,

        around the Savior’s throne rejoice,

        in robes of light arrayed.

        They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n

        through peril, toil, and pain.

        O God, to us may grace be giv’n

        to follow in their train!


The pastor and people confess the faith of the Church in the words of the Nicene Creed.


X At the words ‘For us and for our salvation,’ and continuing through ‘and was made man,’ a solemn bow is appropriate to praise the incarnation of our Lord.


We believe in one God,

                the Father, the Almighty,            

                                maker of heaven and earth,

                                of all that is, seen and unseen.


We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

                the only Son of God,

                eternally begotten of the Father,

                God from God, Light from Light,

                true God from true God,

                begotten, not made,

                of one Being with the Father.

                Through him all things were made.

                X For us and for our salvation

                                he came down from heaven;

                                by the power of the Holy Spirit

                                he became incarnate from the virgin Mary,                                                       and was made man. X

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

                                he suffered death and was buried.

                On the third day he rose again

                                                in accordance with the Scriptures;

                                he ascended into heaven

                                                and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

                He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

                                and his kingdom will have no end.


We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

                who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

                With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

                He has spoken through the prophets.

                We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

                We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

                We look for the resurrection of the dead,

                                and the life of the world to come. Amen




Giving thanks for the gift of the Christ-child, and rejoicing in those who followed in his way even to death, we offer our prayers.


For the whole Church: that by the example of Stephen, Christ’s people may be given grace both to tirelessly serve others and to fearlessly witness to your truth. Lord, in your mercy,

  hear our prayer.


For this congregation, signed with the name of Stephen: give us your grace to live out in our time and place the call to witness and serve.  Lord, in your mercy,

  hear our prayer.


For the enemies of the Gospel and the persecutors of the faithful: that, like Paul, they may be forgiven and turned from their hatred, and be moved to praise the One who sits in glory at the right hand of the Father. Lord, in your mercy,

  hear our prayer.


For those who are persecuted for the name of Christ: that you would keep them in faith toward you and love toward even their enemies. Lord, in your mercy,

  hear our prayer.


Receive, in this time of grace, our intercessions and supplications:

  For our bishop and pastors,                                        hear our prayer.

  For those who serve as deacons in the church,   hear our prayer.

  For all who administer the gifts of the Church to the poor,

                                                                                                hear our prayer.

  For the peace of the world,                                         hear our prayer.

  For the President, the Congress, and the courts, hear our prayer.

  For good government and domestic tranquility, hear our prayer.

  For all who protect, heal, and serve others,          hear our prayer.

  For all who are in need,                                                hear our prayer.

  For those who have lost faith,                                   hear our prayer.

  For the sick, the friendless, the grieving,

   the anxious, and the despairing,                              hear our prayer.


The pastor reads the names submitted for prayer.

The people may offer silent or spoken intercessions and thanksgivings.


Lord, in your mercy,

  hear our prayer.


God our Father, we give you thanks for Stephen, proto-martyr and proto-deacon; for Paul the Apostle, and for all who bore witness with their lives to the Son of Man, who came as a child and now reigns at your right hand until he comes to judge the living and the dead. In that day receive us as humble and repentant sinners, that we may sing your praises with all the saints in glory. Lord, in your mercy,

  hear our prayer.


Into your hands, Father, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your steadfast love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.




The peace of the Lord be with you always.

  And also with you.


The people exchange a sign of peace with the simple words, Peace be with you.



The Lord’s Table is prepared.




Psalm 31:6-7, 16, 20                                                Setting by Richard Hillert    

I trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad for your steadfast love. Let your face shine on your       servant; save me in your steadfast love! In the covert of your presence you hide them from the plots of the wicked; you hold them safe under your shelter from the strife of tongues.



Hear us, O Lord Jesus Christ, from your dwelling place,

from the glorious throne of your kingdom, and come and cleanse us.

  You are seated on high with the Father,

  and you dwell also with us here, although unseen.

By your mighty hand render us worthy to receive in holy communion

your spotless body and your precious blood.




 P              The Lord be with you.


C             And also with you.


P              Lift up your hearts.


C             We lift them to the Lord.


P              Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.


C             It is right to give him thanks and praise.


It is indeed right and salutary that we should at all times and in all places offer thanks and praise to you, O Lord, holy Father, almighty and ever-living God. In the wonder and mystery of the Word made flesh

you have opened the eyes of faith to a new and radiant vision of your glory; that, beholding the God made visible, we may be drawn to love the God whom we cannot see. And so, with Stephen and Paul, with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:


 C             Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might:

                Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

                                Hosanna in the highest.

                Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

                                Hosanna in the highest.

The pastor leads the people in praying the Eucharistic canon:


Holy God, mighty Lord, gracious Father:

Endless is your mercy and eternal your reign.

You have filled all creation with light and life;

                heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Through Abraham you promised to bless all nations.

                You rescued Israel, your chosen people.

Through the prophets you renewed your promise;

                and, at this end of all the ages, you sent your Son,

                who in words and deeds proclaimed your kingdom

                and was obedient to your will, even to giving his life.


In the night in which he was betrayed,

                        our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

                        broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:

                        Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.

Do this for the remembrance of me.


Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

                        and gave it for all to drink, saying:

                        This cup is the new covenant in my blood,

shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.

Do this for the remembrance of me.


For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup

we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

  Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.


Therefore, gracious Father, with this bread and cup

we remember the life our Lord offered for us.

And, believing the witness of his resurrection,

we await his coming in power

to share with us the great and promised feast.

  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.


Send now, we pray, your Holy Spirit,

the spirit of our Lord and of his resurrection,

that we who receive the Lord's body and blood

may live to the praise of your glory

and receive our inheritance with all your saints in light.

  Amen. Come, Holy Spirit.


Join our prayers with those of your servants

of every time and every place,

and unite them with the ceaseless petitions of our great high priest

until he comes as victorious Lord of all.

 C             Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

                all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen


In the presence of Christ, we pray to his Father using the words he gave us.


Christ is in our midst.

                By the power of the Spirit,

                we pray to his Father, saying:


Our Father, who art in heaven,

                hallowed be thy name,

                thy kingdom come,

                thy will be done,

                                on earth as it is in heaven.

                Give us this day our daily bread;

                and forgive us our trespasses,

                                as we forgive those who trespass against us;

                and lead us not into temptation,

                                but deliver us from evil.

                For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,

                                forever and ever. Amen                                    Matthew 6:9-15


The One who was born in Bethlehem

and who sits at the right hand of God

comes to us now in bread and wine.

  Thanks be to God.


We adore Christ with the words of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

 C             Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.

                Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.

                Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world; grant us peace.



Admission to the Sacrament is by invitation of the Lord, presented through the Church to those who are baptized.


They may receive the Lord’s Body and Blood who are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, who commune in their home churches, and who believe that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is truly present in, with, and under the forms of bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.


The communicants will be invited forward one family unit at a time. Please do not come forward until the pastor directs you to come forward, do not approach all the way to the table until the pastor has retreated.


 When the pastor says ‘The body of Christ, given for you,’ eat the bread. When the pastor says, ‘The blood of Christ, shed for you,’ drink the wine.  Please take the plate and the glass(es) and place them on the table that is indicated.



Choir Anthem

Beyond Christmas 

Text// Fred Pratt Green

                                                                                             Music/ W.J. Kirkpatrick

           Setting by Alfred V. Fedak               

There’s snow on the mountain and ice on the pond;

The angels are home now in the back of beyond;

The shepherds have left us; the heavens are dumb;            

There’s no one to tell us why Jesus has come.


The tree droops its needles a sign we must go;     

But the long road to Egypt is covered in snow;

And wherever we travel the food will be dear:

Who knows what’s before us this coming New Year?


But God’s in his heaven, and Jesus has come

To show every sinner they’re welcome back home,

To be this world’s Savior from hunger and fear,

And give us new courage to face the New Year.


What Child Is This                         Green LBW 40

1      What child is this, who, laid to rest,

        on Mary's lap is sleeping?

        Whom angels greet with anthems sweet

        while shepherds watch are keeping?

        This, this is Christ the king,

        whom shepherds guard and angels sing;

        haste, haste to bring him laud,

        the babe, the son of Mary!


2      Why lies he in such mean estate

        where ox and ass are feeding?

        Good Christian, fear; for sinners here

        the silent Word is pleading.

        Nails, spear shall pierce him through,

        the cross be borne for me, for you;

        hail, hail the Word made flesh,

        the babe, the son of Mary!


3      So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh;

        come, peasant, king, to own him.

        The King of kings salvation brings;

        let loving hearts enthrone him.

        Raise, raise the song on high,

        the virgin sings her lullaby;

        joy, joy, for Christ is born,

        the babe, the son of Mary!

When all have received, the congregation stands at the direction of the pastor.


The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ

strengthen you and keep you in his grace.                                               Amen

 C             Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled.

                My own eyes have seen the salvation

                                which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

                                A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.           Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

                                 as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

We give you thanks, Almighty God, that you have refreshed us through the healing power of this gift of life; and we pray that in your mercy you would strengthen us, through this gift, in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another; for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.



May the Holy Spirit fill you this day and always,

so that you may tell of the good news of Christ in word and deed.



Almighty God, Father, XSon, and Holy Spirit,

bless you now and forever.



XCLOSING HYMN       It Came upon the Midnight Clear      Green LBW 54

1      It came upon the midnight clear,

        that glorious song of old,

        from angels bending near the earth

        to touch their harps of gold:

        "Peace on the earth, good will to all,

        from heav'n's all-gracious king."

        The world in solemn stillness lay

        to hear the angels sing.


2      Still through the cloven skies they come

        with peaceful wings unfurled,

        and still their heav'nly music floats

        o'er all the weary world.

        Above its sad and lowly plains

        they bend on hov'ring wing,

        and ever o'er its babel sounds

        the blessed angels sing.


3      And you, beneath life's crushing load,

        whose forms are bending low,

        who toil along the climbing way

        with painful steps and slow:

        look now, for glad and golden hours

        come swiftly on the wing;

        oh, rest beside the weary road

        and hear the angels sing!


4     For lo! The days are hast'ning on,

        by prophets seen of old,

        when with the ever-circling years

        shall come the time foretold,

        when peace shall over all the earth

        its ancient splendors fling,

        and all the world give back the song

        which now the angels sing. 


Go in peace. Serve the Lord.                                           Thanks be to God!




Sun/ Dec 26         Choir rehearsal 9:30 AM


Prayer at the Close of the Day (livestream) 9:30 PM

Fri/ Dec 31           New Year’s Eve Worship 7:30 PM                            

Sat/ Jan 1              NA Meeting 11 AM

                                Food Bank

                                WORSHIP 6:30 PM

Sun/ Jan 2            Choir rehearsal 9:30 AM


Food Bank

Prayer at the Close of the Day (livestream) 9:30 PM







From Sundays and Copyright 2021 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #20540.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Common Worship: Times and Seasons, material from which is included here, is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2006 and published by Church House Publishing.


St Stephen Lutheran Church

55 Forsythe Road

Pittsburgh PA 15220

(412) 279-5868


Saturday Evening Worship – 6:30 pm

Sunday Morning Worship –10:30 am