Sunday, 22 December 2019

‘Help us to overcome the darkness
of prejudice and hatred, and
spread the light of liberty and love’

Hanukkah Menoroth in the Museum of Jewish Culture, Bratislava (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

In my sermon this morning [22 December 2019], I mentioned this evening [2 December 2018] is the first night of Hanukkah, the holiday that continues for eight days until nightfall on Monday 30 December 2019. The theme of darkness and light is important in both Jewish and Christian traditions at this time of the year, and in the Jewish calendar.

Hanukkah (חֲנֻכָּה‬) commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication.

Hanukkah starting on 25 Kislev in the Hebrew calendar and continuing for eight nights and days. It falls sometime between late November and late December, is quite late this year, overlapping with Christmas.

The name Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew verb ‘חנך‎’ meaning to dedicate. On Hanukkah, the Maccabean Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple.

Two books, I and II Maccabees, describe in detail the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah.

These books are not part of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible, which came from the Palestinian canon. However, they were part of the Alexandrian canon, the Septuagint (LXX).

The eight-day rededication of the Temple is described in I Maccabees 4: 36 to 4: 59, although the name of the festival and the miracle of the lights do not appear there. A similar story is alluded to in II Maccabees 1: 18 to 1: 36, recalls how Nehemiah relights the altar fire in a miracle on 25 Kislev, which may explain why Judah Maccabee chooses this date for rededicating the altar.

In I Maccabees 4 and II Maccabees 1: 9, the feast is seen as a delayed observation of the eight-day Feast of Booths (Sukkot). II Maccabees 10: 6 links the length of the feast with the Feast of Booths.

In the New Testament, John 10: 22-23 recalls Christ walking in Solomon’s Porch at the Temple during ‘the festival of the Dedication … in Jerusalem. It was winter.’

As Sukkot falls in autumn, in September or October, we are left wondering whether Jesus was in the Temple for the Festival of Hanukkah.

Judea was part of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt until 200 BCE when King Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated King Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt at the Battle of Panium. Judea then became part of the Seleucid Empire of Syria.

King Antiochus III the Great, guaranteed the right of his new Jewish subjects to ‘live according to their ancestral customs’ and to continue to practice their religion in the Temple of Jerusalem. However, in 175 BCE, his son Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Judea, at the request of the sons of Tobias. They had led the Hellenising Jewish faction in Jerusalem, and were expelled to Syria around 170 BCE when the high priest Onias and his pro-Egyptian faction seized control. The exiled sons of Tobias lobbied Antiochus IV Epiphanes to recapture Jerusalem.

The Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted, public worship stopped, and Judaism was outlawed. In 167 BCE, Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. He banned circumcision and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the Temple.

Antiochus’s actions provoked a large-scale revolt. Mattathias, a Jewish priest, and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion. It started with Mattathias killing first a Jew who wanted to comply with Antiochus’s order to sacrifice to Zeus, and then a Greek official who was to enforce the government orders.

Judah became known as Judah the Hammer. By 166 BCE, Mattathias had died, and Judah replaced him as leader. By 165 BCE, the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event.

Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels made. According to the Talmud, pure olive oil with the seal of the high priest was needed for the menorah in the Temple, and it had to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that one flask was found with only enough oil to burn for one day, but it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.

The Hanukkah menorah in the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Both books are part of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons of the Bible, but were rejected by many traditions at the Reformation. They are respected by Anglicans as part of the Apocrypha. By excluding these books from Biblical readings, many Church traditions miss a story that was part of the Christian narrative for 1,500 and also miss a story that Jews see as miracle that confounds racism, anti-Semitism and religious and racist hatred.

The miracle of the one-day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days is first described in the Talmud, written about 600 years after the events described in the books of Maccabees.

The Talmud says that after the forces of Antiochus IV were driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that almost all of the ritual olive oil had been profaned. They found only a single container that was still sealed by the High Priest, with enough oil to keep the menorah in the Temple lit for a single day. They used this, yet it burned for eight days.

Hanukkah is not a Sabbath-like holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from work and similar activities forbidden on the Sabbath. People go to work as usual, but may leave early to get home to light the lights at nightfall.

The festival is marked by lighting candles on a candelabrum with nine branches, a Hanukkah menorah (or hanukkiah). One branch is typically placed above or below the others and its candle is used to light the other eight. This unique candle is called the shamash (שמש‎, ‘attendant’). Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shamash, until all eight candles are lit together on the final night.

A Menorah in a synagogue in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

A large number of songs have been written on Hanukkah themes. One of the best known is Ma’oz Tzur (Rock of Ages), written in the 13th century by a poet known as Mordechai. The tune is most probably from a German hymn or a popular folk song. Some Sephardic families recite Psalms, such as Psalms 30, Psalms 67 and Psalms 91.

When he was co-editing Service of the Heart, the Liberal and Progressive Jewish prayerbook, Rabbi John Rayner wrote a new hymn based on Ma’oz Tzur that translates:

Refuge and rock of my salvation,
to you all praise is due.
Even if enemies rise up against me,
I will yet be confident.

By your great power
you drove away
those who profaned tour altar,
and my heart rejoices in you alone.


A menorah in the Jewish Museum in Portobello, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The story of Hanukkah is one of resistance to hatred, prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism. It is a story that too many Christians are unaware of, both its narrative and its significance.

During the past year, I have visited synagogues and Jewish museums throughout these islands and in Albania, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. It is chilling to be reminded of the consequences of letting racism go unchallenged.

Last week, police in California arrested a suspect in a case of vandalism at a Beverly Hills synagogue during the previous weekend. A suspect described as a white male entered the Nessah Synagogue, a Persian Jewish congregation in Beverly Hills, and vandalised the sanctuary, tearing prayer books and strewing Torah scrolls on the floor.

Police are investigating a possible link between the attack on the Nessah Synagogue and a series of graffiti attacks in Los Angeles, when three Jewish schools were daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti and two dozen cars were spray-painted. A swastika and hateful messages, including the phrase ‘time to pay,’ were found spray-painted at the American Jewish University in Bel Air, the Westwood Charter School and Milken Community High School.

Earlier this month [10 December], armed men opened fire at a cemetery and a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, killing four people. The targeted Jews were members of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community.

In October, anti-Semitic posters were plastered to the doors of a synagogue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, featuring the head of Hitler with the caption ‘Did you forget about me?’

In September, the slogan ‘Six million $ was not enough’ was sprawled across the welcome sign at the Temple Ahavat Shalom synagogue in Los Angeles. The Anti-Defamation League says there have been 36 such incidents in Los Angeles so far this year.

A recent survey by the American Jewish Committee shows that more than 80 per cent of Jewish respondents say they have witnessed an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the US over the past five years. The Anti-Defamation League has reported a 150 per cent increase in recorded incidents comparing 2013 with 2018.

American Jews clearly see that the rise in white supremacy goes hand in hand with the rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the US: 89 percent of AJC respondents believe the extreme political right presents a threat to Jews.

The AJC survey shows 41 per cent of respondents to AJC’s survey believe that the Republican Party bears all or close to all responsibility for the current levels of anti-Semitism.

A survey by the Jewish Electorate Institute this year shows 73 per cent of American Jews feel less secure since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Antisemitic attacks against synagogues since 2016 have contributed to this fear.

The Trump presidency has emboldened white supremacy throughout the US, and he routinely refuses to condemn their hatred. At the same time, Trump has engaged in harmful rhetoric, claiming in August that any Jewish person who votes for a Democrat shows ‘either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.’ Now, there is an anti-Semitic theory being spread among Republicans that a Jewish conspiracy is behind the impeachment of Trump.

I remain convinced that what is happening in the US has brought us closer to 1938. Barbed wire fences have gone up, children are being separated from their parents and detained in cages and compounds, ethnic and cultural minorities are being targeted with impunity by the ultra-right while the president regards himself as supreme leader, above the law and speaking in repeated slogans that stir up the crowds, and says the victims share equal responsibility for attacks.

Before he left office, President Barack Obama said: ‘The light of hope must outlast the fires of hate. That’s what the Hanukkah story teaches us. It’s what our young people can teach us – that one act of faith can make a miracle, that love is stronger than hate, that peace can triumph over conflict.’

Dreidels are part of a children's game at Hanukkah … a display in a synagogue in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The prayer when kindling the Hanukkah lights says:

We thank you, O God, for the redeeming wonders and the mighty deeds with which you saved our fathers in days of old at this season.

In the days of the Hasmoneans, a tyrant nation rose up against our ancestors, determined to make them forget your law, and to turn them from obedience to your will. But in your abundant mercy, you stood at their side in their time of trouble. You gave them strength to struggle and to triumph, that they might serve you in freedom.

Through your spirit the weak defeated the strong, the few prevailed over the many, and the righteous were triumphant. Then did your children return to your house, to purify your sanctuary and kindle its lights. And they appointed these eight days of Dedication, to give thanks and praise to your great name.

Grant, O God, that the heroic example of the Maccabees may inspire us always to be loyal to our heritage and valiant for truth. May your holy spirit help us to overcome the darkness of prejudice and hatred, and spread the light of liberty and love.

The Reader then says: These lights are a symbol of the joy we feel that our faith was saved from extinction. May its flame burn ever more brightly, to illumine our lives and to give light to the world.

The servant-candle is lit, and the Reader says:

We praise you, O Lord our God, King of universe, who have sanctified us by your commandments, and enjoined us to light the Hanukkah lights. Amen.
We praise you, O Lord our God, King of universe, who performed wondrous deeds for our fathers in days of old, at this season. Amen.

On this night, the first night of Hanukkah, all then say:

We praise you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who have given us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.

The following verses may be recited as the candles are lit:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.

Though I fall, I shall rise;
though I sit in darkness,
the Lord shall be a light to me.


For you light my lamp;
the Lord my God makes bright my darkness.

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
for him who is gracious, compassionate and just.


Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your vindication as the light,
and your right as the noonday.

For the commandment is a lamp,
and the Teaching is light.


Arise, shine, for light has come,
and the splendour of the Lord has risen upon you.

No more shall the sun be your light by day,
nor shall the moon give light to you by night;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God your glory.




Dreaming dreams and
being brave enough
to do the right thing

The betrothal of Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary … a stained glass window from the Harry Clarke studios in the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Athlone (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 22 December 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Advent IV)


11 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (united group service)

The Readings: Isaiah 7: 10-16; Psalm 80: 1-8, 18-20; Romans 1: 1-7; Matthew 1: 18-25. There is a link to the readings HERE.

The betrothal of Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary … a panel in the Saint Joseph Window by the Harry Clarke studios in the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Kilmallock, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and this is also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. This evening also marks the beginning of the Jewish festival, Hanukkah (חֲנֻכָּה), also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt, bringing light and purity in dark times back into the place where God was worshipped.

Are you looking forward to light coming into your life and into the life of your home, your family, this parish, and this church?

Christmas is upon us, and this morning we light the last of the purple candles on the Advent Wreath, the one representing the Virgin Mary.

Our readings this morning are about choices, about obedience to God’s plans, and about the fulfilment of God’s plans for all nations. The fourth Advent candle is a reminder of the Virgin Mary and her obedience, her choice, her ‘Yes.’

But the Gospel reading also reminds us that Saint Joseph says ‘Yes’ too, even if he says it silently. He has no scripted lines, he has no dramatic parts or roles; indeed, he is mute. But he is obedient. And, like Joseph, his namesake in the Old Testament who is named in our psalm (Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19), he too is the dreamer of dreams and the doer of deeds.

Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary are engaged, but the marriage contract has not yet been signed, she has not yet entered into his house.

If the Mosaic law had been fully observed by Joseph, Mary could have faced ‘public disgrace,’ even stoned to death.

Joseph is righteous and observes the Law. But he is also compassionate and plans to send her away quietly, without public shame.

The angel of the Lord tells Joseph of his role: through him, God’s promises will be fulfilled in the child to be born. And Joseph names the child Jesus.

The fear of sneers, of judgmental remarks and wagging fingers, must have been running through Joseph’s mind like a nightmare. Yet the angel in Joseph’s dream promises: ‘He will save his people from their sins.’

It is not a promise of immediate reward. Saint Joseph is not offered the promise that if he behaves like this he is going to earn some Brownie points towards the forgiveness of his own sins; that God will see him as a nice guy; or even that if he lives long enough, this child may grow up, be apprenticed to him, take over the family business, and act as a future pension plan.

Instead, the promised pay-off is for others as yet unknown. The forgiveness here is spoken of in apocalyptic terms. It is more than the self-acceptance offered in psychotherapy. Instead, it is the declaration of a new future. To be forgiven is to receive a future. Forgiveness breaks the simple link between cause and effect, action and reaction, failure and disaster, rebellion and recrimination.

This hope of all the ages, the beginning of the end of all the old tyrannies, the restoration of everything that is and will be, was always meant to take place in a virgin’s womb, in the manger, on the cross.

That is Advent. It is a time of expectation, repentance and forgiveness. It is a time of preparation, anticipation and hope. It is a time for dreaming dreams, and putting behind us all our nightmares.

The dream in our Gospel reading is the dream of Saint Joseph, not the Virgin Mary’s dream. The Angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary only in Saint Luke’s Gospel. Saint Mark and Saint John, for their part, give us no account of the birth of Christ, they have no Christmas narrative.

The Very Revd Samuel G Candler, Dean of Saint Philip’s Episcopal Cathedral in Atlanta, Georgia, suggested in a sermon on this Sunday many years ago: ‘We need sleep because we need to dream.’

Saint Joseph dreamed something wonderful. God would enter the world; God would be born to his new, young wife, Mary. But to believe this, Saint Joseph had to trust not only his dream, but to trust Mary, to trust the future child, to trust God.

Do you love the people you trust and trust the people you love?

To trust the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph must have truly loved her. But trust in this predicament must have gone beyond trust. Joseph must have truly glimpsed what it is to trust God, to have hope in God, to love God, to have faith in God.

Saint Joseph dreams a dream not of his own salvation, but of the salvation of the world.

Do you trust that God is working through the people you love? Do you trust that God is working through people you find it difficult not to love but merely to like … working through God’s people for their salvation?

Saint Joseph has no speaking part; he just has a walk-on part in the Gospel story. But his actions, his obedience to God’s call, speak louder than words.

Yes, God appears over and over again, to men, women, to ‘all sorts and conditions of people.’

But do we trust them?

Can you have faith in someone else?

Can you believe their dreams?

Can you believe the dreams of those you love?

And dream their dreams too?

As Dean Candler urges in that sermon: ‘Believe in the dreams of the person you love. Believe in dreams this Christmas, and Jesus will be born again. Believe in dreams this Christmas, and God will appear. Amen.’

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ … the Holy Family by Giovanni Battista Pittoni, the Altar Piece in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge … the depiction of Saint Joseph was typical for centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 1: 18-25 (NRSVA):

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,

which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Joseph looks after the Child (Image: Englewood Review of Books)

Liturgical resources:

The liturgical provisions suggest that the Gloria may be omitted during Advent, and it is traditional in Anglicanism to omit the Gloria at the end of canticles and psalms during Advent.

Liturgical Colour: Violet (Purple)

The Collect of the Day:

God our redeemer,
who prepared the blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son:
Grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
so we may be ready to greet him
when he comes again as our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and ever.

This collect is said after the Collect of the day until Christmas Eve

Penitential Kyries:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour,
and let your anger cease from us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1: 78, 79)

Preface:

Salvation is your gift
through the coming of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and by him you will make all things new
when he returns in glory to judge the world:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
you have given us a pledge of eternal redemption.
Grant that we may always eagerly celebrate
the saving mystery of the incarnation of your Son.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon you,
gladden your hearts
and scatter the darkness from before you:

Saint Joseph and the Christ Child … a mosaic in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Hymns:

160, Hark! the herald angels sing (CD 9)

133, Long ago, prophets knew (CD 8)

135, O come, O come Emmanuel (CD 8)



‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ (Hymn 135) … candles light up the chapter and choir stalls in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

The hymn suggestions are provided in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling. The hymn numbers refer to the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2000).

The Angel speaks to Saint Joseph in his dream … a mosaic in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Reading Saint Luke’s Gospel
in Advent 2019: Luke 22

‘He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished’ (Luke 22: 12) … the Upper Room in a restaurant in Agios Georgios in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Advent this year, I am joining many people in reading a chapter from Saint Luke’s Gospel each morning. In all, there are 24 chapters in Saint Luke’s Gospel, so this means being able to read through the full Gospel, reaching the last chapter on Tuesday, Christmas Eve [24 December 2019].

Why not join me as I read through Saint Luke’s Gospel each morning this Advent?

Luke 22 (NRSVA):

1 Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. 2 The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.

3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; 4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. 5 They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ 9 They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ 10 ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters 11 and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ 13 So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ 23 Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

28 ‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31 ‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ 33 And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ 34 Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’

35 He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ 36 He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ 38 They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’

39 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 45 When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46 and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’

47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; 48 but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ 49 When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ 50 Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55 When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ 57 But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ 58 A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ 59 Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ 60 But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

63 Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; 64 they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ 65 They kept heaping many other insults on him.

66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. 67 They said, ‘If you are the Messiah, tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I question you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ 70 All of them asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ 71 Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!’

A prayer for today:

A prayer today, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, from the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG, United Society Partners in the Gospel:

Lord Jesus, as a hen gathers her chicks,
so we turn to you
to provide shelter from the pressures of this world.
As we remember your mother Mary bearing you,
loving you and protecting you,
so we join with our Christian family this week
to remember the true meaning of this festive season.

Tomorrow: Luke 23.

Yesterday: Luke 21.

‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22: 19) … the Last Supper depicted in a fresco in Analipsi Church in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org