Sunday, 8 December 2019

How can we compare
Santa with the Prophets
and Saint John the Baptist?

Saint Nicholas in a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick … how did Saint Nicholas become Santa Claus? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 8 December 2019,

The Second Sunday of Advent.


11.30 a.m., Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Morning Prayer 2

Readings: Isaiah 11: 1-10; Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19; Romans 15: 4-13; Matthew 3: 1-12.

‘In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea’ (Matthew 3: 1) … a mosaic in Saint John’s Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, shows Saint John the Baptist with his parents Saint Zechariah and Saint Elizabeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

In this season of Advent, we are preparing for the coming of Christ, not just the Christ Child in the crib, but Christ the challenging king, Christ at his second coming.

This morning, as we light the second candle on the Advent Wreath, we think of the prophets and kings who prepared the way for the coming of Christ.

In the Old Testament reading, the Prophet Isaiah looks to the coming Messiah, ushering in a kingdom in which the wolf shall live with the lamb, the calf with the lion, ‘and a little child shall lead them’ – a Messianic image that has inspired poets, painters and hymn writers.

The psalm prays that the coming king may bring righteousness and justice, defend the poor, crush the oppressor, so the earth will be blessed with prosperity, justice and peace.
In our epistle reading, Saint Paul urges us to welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed us in fulfilment of the promises to the Patriarchs and Prophets of old. He asks that God may fill us with joy, peace and hope.

In our Gospel reading (Matthew 3: 1-12), Saint John the Baptist is described in words from the Prophet Isaiah as ‘the voice … crying out in the wilderness’ (verse 3).

Saint John the Baptist is compared with the Old Testament prophets, particularly Isaiah and Elijah, and he emphasises the coming of the Kingdom of heaven (βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, basileía tou ouranou, see verse 2). When God’s kingdom comes, his will indeed shall be done on earth as in heaven, and justice shall be firmly and truly established.

Advent is our time to prepare for the coming of those days.

As Saint John the Baptist prepares the people for the coming of the Kingdom, he may be trying to shock the Pharisees and Sadducees out of their false sense of security, and into spiritual awareness by using strong language: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’

If Saint John the Baptist is drawing up a list before the coming of Christ, there is no doubt that he knows who’s naughty and who’s nice.

With his long beard and his unusual clothing, his rare appearance, his cajoling and cautioning, could we compare Saint John with Saint Nicholas, with Santa Claus?

Now, I know Saint John is not handing out gifts, moving around with haste before the arrival of Christ – but is there a way in which Santa Claus also prepares us for the coming of Christ? A way he teaches us some truths about who Christ truly is?

The feast day of Saint Nicholas does not fall on Christmas Day, or even on Christmas Eve. His feast day was on Friday, on 6 December, even if he does not make an appearance in the Calendar of the Church of Ireland.

Saint Nicholas was such a favourite saint in mediaeval Ireland that many of our principal ports and towns have large churches named after him, including one in mediaeval Limerick, on Nicholas Street, close to Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

He is an important figure, not because of the roly-poly figure used by Coca-Cola and advertising.

Saint Nicholas, whose name means ‘Victory of the People,’ was born in Myra in Lycia, now known as Demre, near Antalya on the south coast of present-day Turkey. He had a reputation as a secret giver of gifts, such as putting coins in the shoes of poor children, so you can see his links with our Santa Claus today.

Saint Nicholas is the patron of sailors, seafarers, merchants, pawnbrokers, children and students, and the patron of many port cities. King’s College, Cambridge, known for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, was founded in 1441 as the King’s College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas.

Legend says young Nicholas was sent to Alexandria as a student. On the voyage, it is said, he saved the life of a sailor who fell from the ship’s rigging. In one version, on their arrival back in Myra, Nicholas took the sailor to church. The previous Bishop of Myra had just died, and the freshly-returned, heroic Nicholas was elected his successor.

Another story tells how during a famine, a butcher lured three small children into his house, slaughtered and butchered them, and put their bodies in a pork barrel to sell as meat pies. Saint Nicholas, who heard of the horrific plans, brought the three boys back to life through his prayers.

The best-known story tells how a poor man had three daughters but could not afford proper dowries for them. They would either remain unmarried or become victims of the trade in women and people trafficking. Saint Nicholas secretly went to their house at night and threw three purses filled with gold, one for each daughter, through the window – or down the chimney.

There are stories too of Saint Nicholas and the defence of true doctrine. In the year 325, the Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, attended by more than 300 bishops, to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity.

It was one of the most intense theological debates in the early Church. Arius from Alexandria was teaching that Christ was the Son of God but was not equal to God the Father, not God incarnate. As Arius argued at length, Nicholas became agitated, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face.

The shocked bishops stripped Nicholas of his episcopal robes, chained him and jailed him. In the morning, the bishops found his chains on the floor and Nicholas dressed in his episcopal robes, quietly reading his Bible. Constantine ordered his release, and Nicholas was reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.

As the debate went on, the Council of Nicaea agreed with his views, deciding against Arius and agreeing on the Nicene Creed, which remains the symbol of our faith.

In 1863, the cartoonist Thomas Nast began a series of drawings in Harper’s Weekly, based on the descriptions in Washington Irving’s fiction and Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, ‘A Visit from Saint Nicholas’ or ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ His drawings gave us a rotund Santa with flowing beard, fur garments, and a clay pipe, and the saint’s name shifted to Santa Claus – a phonetic alteration from the German Sankt Niklaus and the Dutch Sinterklaas.

Coca Cola, advertising and Hollywood later made Santa a commercial success, and the North American Santa Claus has since travelled around the world.

But for me, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, remains the protector of children, the giver of gifts that make this a good world for children to live in. As the free-giver of gifts, without expecting anything in return, he is a reminder that God’s love is given freely and unconditionally at the Incarnation in his Son, Christ Jesus.

As the defender of the doctrine that Christ is God Incarnate, Saint Nicholas makes Christmas more than the birth of another prophet or someone who was important in history, and gives meaning to our celebrations of Christmas.

The stories of bringing the victims of murder back to life are reminders that Christmas is without meaning unless we connect it with Good Friday and Easter Day, that the significance of the Incarnation is found in our Redemption and the Resurrection.

If Santa gives good gifts at Christmas, then he prepares, he makes way, for the gift of love that God gives to us, all of us, freely, in the gift of Christ, the best of all gifts.

Enjoy preparing for Christmas.

Enjoy the anticipation and the excitement.

Enjoy the gifts – giving and receiving.

And prepare for the greatest gift of all.

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

How was Saint Nicholas transformed into the modern Santa Claus? … a scene in Little Catherine Street, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Matthew 3: 1-12 (NRSVA):

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight”.’

4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

An icon of Saint Nicholas, celebrated on 6 December, in a church in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Violet

Liturgical resources for Advent:

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.

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.

The Collect of the Day:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

The Collect of the Word:

God of all peoples,
whose servant John came baptising and calling for repentance:
help us to hear his voice of judgment,
that we may also rejoice in the word of promise,
and be found pure and blameless in the glorious day when Christ
comes to rule the earth as Prince of Peace;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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)

Blessing:

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

An icon of Saint Nicholas of Myra in the Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas, Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Hymns:

535, Judge eternal, throned in splendour (CD 31)
162, In the bleak mid-winter (CD 10)
134, Make way, make way, for Christ the King (CD 8)

Saint Nicholas defended doctrine that are central to the Incarnation and that make Christmas worth celebrating … the word homoousios (ὁμοούσιος) means ‘same substance,’ while the word homoiousios (ὁμοιούσιος) means ‘similar substance’; the Council of Nicaea affirmed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same substance, rather than of a similar substance

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 Prophets and Santa
prepare us in Advent
for the best gift of all

An icon of Saint Nicholas, celebrated on 6 December, in a church in Crete … how did he become Santa Claus? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 8 December 2019,

The Second Sunday of Advent.


9.30 a.m., Castletown Church, The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)

Readings: Isaiah 11: 1-10; Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19; Romans 15: 4-13; Matthew 3: 1-12.

‘In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea’ (Matthew 3: 1) … a mosaic in Saint John’s Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, shows Saint John the Baptist with his parents Saint Zechariah and Saint Elizabeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

In this season of Advent, we are preparing for the coming of Christ, not just the Christ Child in the crib, but Christ the challenging king, Christ at his second coming.

This morning, as we light the second candle on the Advent Wreath, we think of the prophets and kings who prepared the way for the coming of Christ.

In the Old Testament reading, the Prophet Isaiah looks to the coming Messiah, ushering in a kingdom in which the wolf shall live with the lamb, the calf with the lion, ‘and a little child shall lead them’ – a Messianic image that has inspired poets, painters and hymn writers.

The psalm prays that the coming king may bring righteousness and justice, defend the poor, crush the oppressor, so the earth will be blessed with prosperity, justice and peace.
In our epistle reading, Saint Paul urges us to welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed us in fulfilment of the promises to the Patriarchs and Prophets of old. He asks that God may fill us with joy, peace and hope.

In our Gospel reading (Matthew 3: 1-12), Saint John the Baptist is described in words from the Prophet Isaiah as ‘the voice … crying out in the wilderness’ (verse 3).

Saint John the Baptist is compared with the Old Testament prophets, particularly Isaiah and Elijah, and he emphasises the coming of the Kingdom of heaven (βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν, basileía tou ouranou, see verse 2). When God’s kingdom comes, his will indeed shall be done on earth as in heaven, and justice shall be firmly and truly established.

Advent is our time to prepare for the coming of those days.

As Saint John the Baptist prepares the people for the coming of the Kingdom, he may be trying to shock the Pharisees and Sadducees out of their false sense of security, and into spiritual awareness by using strong language: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’

If Saint John the Baptist is drawing up a list before the coming of Christ, there is no doubt that he knows who’s naughty and who’s nice.

With his long beard and his unusual clothing, his rare appearance, his cajoling and cautioning, could we compare Saint John with Saint Nicholas, with Santa Claus?

Now, I know Saint John is not handing out gifts, moving around with haste before the arrival of Christ – but is there a way in which Santa Claus also prepares us for the coming of Christ? A way he teaches us some truths about who Christ truly is?

The feast day of Saint Nicholas does not fall on Christmas Day, or even on Christmas Eve. His feast day was on Friday, on 6 December, even if he does not make an appearance in the Calendar of the Church of Ireland.

Saint Nicholas was such a favourite saint in mediaeval Ireland that many of our principal ports and towns have large churches named after him, including one in mediaeval Limerick, on Nicholas Street, close to Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

He is an important figure, not because of the roly-poly figure used by Coca-Cola and advertising.

Saint Nicholas, whose name means ‘Victory of the People,’ was born in Myra in Lycia, now known as Demre, near Antalya on the south coast of present-day Turkey. He had a reputation as a secret giver of gifts, such as putting coins in the shoes of poor children, so you can see his links with our Santa Claus today.

Saint Nicholas is the patron of sailors, seafarers, merchants, pawnbrokers, children and students, and the patron of many port cities. King’s College, Cambridge, known for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, was founded in 1441 as the King’s College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas.

Legend says young Nicholas was sent to Alexandria as a student. On the voyage, it is said, he saved the life of a sailor who fell from the ship’s rigging. In one version, on their arrival back in Myra, Nicholas took the sailor to church. The previous Bishop of Myra had just died, and the freshly-returned, heroic Nicholas was elected his successor.

Another story tells how during a famine, a butcher lured three small children into his house, slaughtered and butchered them, and put their bodies in a pork barrel to sell as meat pies. Saint Nicholas, who heard of the horrific plans, brought the three boys back to life through his prayers.

The best-known story tells how a poor man had three daughters but could not afford proper dowries for them. They would either remain unmarried or become victims of the trade in women and people trafficking. Saint Nicholas secretly went to their house at night and threw three purses filled with gold, one for each daughter, through the window – or down the chimney.

There are stories too of Saint Nicholas and the defence of true doctrine. In the year 325, the Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, attended by more than 300 bishops, to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity.

It was one of the most intense theological debates in the early Church. Arius from Alexandria was teaching that Christ was the Son of God but was not equal to God the Father, not God incarnate. As Arius argued at length, Nicholas became agitated, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face.

The shocked bishops stripped Nicholas of his episcopal robes, chained him and jailed him. In the morning, the bishops found his chains on the floor and Nicholas dressed in his episcopal robes, quietly reading his Bible. Constantine ordered his release, and Nicholas was reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.

As the debate went on, the Council of Nicaea agreed with his views, deciding against Arius and agreeing on the Nicene Creed, which remains the symbol of our faith.

In 1863, the cartoonist Thomas Nast began a series of drawings in Harper’s Weekly, based on the descriptions in Washington Irving’s fiction and Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, ‘A Visit from Saint Nicholas’ or ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ His drawings gave us a rotund Santa with flowing beard, fur garments, and a clay pipe, and the saint’s name shifted to Santa Claus – a phonetic alteration from the German Sankt Niklaus and the Dutch Sinterklaas.

Coca Cola, advertising and Hollywood later made Santa a commercial success, and the North American Santa Claus has since travelled around the world.

But for me, Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, remains the protector of children, the giver of gifts that make this a good world for children to live in. As the free-giver of gifts, without expecting anything in return, he is a reminder that God’s love is given freely and unconditionally at the Incarnation in his Son, Christ Jesus.

As the defender of the doctrine that Christ is God Incarnate, Saint Nicholas makes Christmas more than the birth of another prophet or someone who was important in history, and gives meaning to our celebrations of Christmas.

The stories of bringing the victims of murder back to life are reminders that Christmas is without meaning unless we connect it with Good Friday and Easter Day, that the significance of the Incarnation is found in our Redemption and the Resurrection.

If Santa gives good gifts at Christmas, then he prepares, he makes way, for the gift of love that God gives to us, all of us, freely, in the gift of Christ, the best of all gifts.

Enjoy preparing for Christmas.

Enjoy the anticipation and the excitement.

Enjoy the gifts – giving and receiving.

And prepare for the greatest gift of all.

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

How was Saint Nicholas transformed into the modern Santa Claus? … a scene in Little Catherine Street, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Matthew 3: 1-12 (NRSVA):

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight”.’

4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

Saint Nicholas with children … a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Liturgical Colour: Violet

Liturgical resources for Advent:

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.

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.

The Collect of the Day:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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

The Collect of the Word:

God of all peoples,
whose servant John came baptising and calling for repentance:
help us to hear his voice of judgment,
that we may also rejoice in the word of promise,
and be found pure and blameless in the glorious day when Christ
comes to rule the earth as Prince of Peace;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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:

Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

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

An icon of Saint Nicholas of Myra in the Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas, Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Hymns:

535, Judge eternal, throned in splendour (CD 31)
162, In the bleak mid-winter (CD 10)
134, Make way, make way, for Christ the King (CD 8)

Saint Nicholas defended doctrine that are central to the Incarnation and that make Christmas worth celebrating … the word homoousios (ὁμοούσιος) means ‘same substance,’ while the word homoiousios (ὁμοιούσιος) means ‘similar substance’; the Council of Nicaea affirmed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same substance, rather than of a similar substance

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.

Reading Saint Luke’s Gospel
in Advent 2019: Luke 8

‘A sower went out to sow his seed’ (Luke 8: 5) … The East Window in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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 Christmas Eve [24 December 2019].

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

Luke 8 (NRSVA):

1 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

4 When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. 7 Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

9 Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that

“looking they may not perceive,
and listening they may not understand.”

11 ‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

16 ‘No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. 18 Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.’

19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ 21 But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, 23 and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. 24 They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’ – 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

40 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41 Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying.

As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her haemorrhage stopped. 45 Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ 46 But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’ 47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’

49 While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ 50 When Jesus heard this, he replied, ‘Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.’ 51 When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, ‘Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.’ 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and called out, ‘Child, get up!’ 55 Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.

A prayer for today:

A prayer today (Advent 2) from the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG, United Society Partners in the Gospel:

Merciful Lord,
you have taught us to bring life in totality to your people.
Grant us the wisdom and passion to work for the poor,
that they may encounter you
and have life in abundance,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect of the Day:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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.

‘For a long time … he did not live in a house but in the tombs’ (Luke 8: 27) … Lycian rock tombs in Fethiye in south-west Turkey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tomorrow: Luke 9.

Yesterday: Luke 7.

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