On December 27th the church remembers St. John, the only apostle said to have died of natural causes.
St. John played a prominent role in the Gospels, and some believe he is even depicted in the Gospel of John as the “Beloved Disciple” (though, I would contend that the Beloved Disciple in that Gospel is actually the one reading the Gospel…but more on that in a different piece of writing).
After the Ascension, John traveled far and wide as an evangelist. He is said to have ended up in Ephesus, where he died of advanced age. Lore has it that in his last years faithful congregants would carry him into the church at Ephesus where he’d bless the gathered people saying, “Love one another, my little children,” a theme of the Epistles of John.
It’s an appropriate day to have a glass of wine or grape juice. Legend has it that John was challenged to drink a cup of poisoned wine, and as he held the cup, he blessed it, and the poison became a snake and slithered out, rendering it harmless. This is why John is sometimes depicted as holding a snake in a chalice.
These saint days following Christmas highlight the “Comites Christi,” or “Companions of Christ.”
St. Stephen died tragically, St. John supposedly died peacefully, and tomorrow the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem who died tragically are meant to highlight how Christ entered a world full of blessing and brokenness, sadness and joy.
God’s incarnation did not solve the problems of humanity, but showed that humanity is worth saving, by God…even broken as it is.