Not a cup of Christmas cheer.

Sometimes the cup in front of us is not full of delight.

Jesus ate one last meal with his disciples, talking about bread and wine. He taught them one last time, around the table, walking out of Jerusalem, across a small valley, up a hill. They walked past vineyards on their way to Gethsemane. Jesus looked at the branches and vines and talked about staying connected and bearing fruit.

When he left the disciples and went further into the garden to pray, it is little wonder that he talked about a cup: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

When talking about the cup of wine a few hours earlier, it was a means of life. Taking the cup in what we now call Communion is the acceptance of an agreement. It was the cup the bride drank to accept the groom’s offer of engagement. It was a cup of hope and promise.

When he described how branches have life when they are connected to the vine, it was a description of relationship. The commitment started with the cup is lived out in the growing vine.

But the promise and relationship rested in a cup of willingness. As he talked with his dad, Jesus found an image to describe the pain that was coming in the next hours. Being betrayed, being abandoned, being scourged, being crucified, all were familiar images to him. As a man he had walked by criminals dying. As God he knew the pain of broken relationships. All of that reality needed a simple way to talk about the choice.

And he found the image in a cup, drained to the dregs. And a phrase.

As you wish. Thy will be done.