Today is both the First Sunday after Christmas and the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. John is certainly an important New Testament person and writer. He was the son of the fisherman Zebedee, and younger brother of the Apostle James. John, his brother James, and Simon Peter were often together and seem to have been the disciples closest to our Lord. In fact, John himself is usually identified as the beloved disciple to whom our Lord, while on the cross, entrusted His mother.
John may have been the youngest of the Twelve, and as hinted in today’s gospel, despite hardships, imprisonment, exile, and threats to his life, John was the only Apostle to survive to a truly old age and die a natural death. Because he lived so long, John provided the strongest personal connection between the first and second century churches. He also wrote the Gospel and three epistles that bear his name and probably also the Revelation or the Apocalypse.
St. John clearly deserves to be remembered and honored. But why today? Why is his day placed so close after Christmas Day? The Church seems to have had three reasons for this choice. First, in the early centuries of the Church, several commemorations that stressed something about the foundations of the Christian faith were placed on the calendar right after the celebration of Christ’s Birth. Secondly, having several important Christian celebrations during the pagan winter festivals of late December gave believers a positive distraction from surrounding pagan celebrations.