Stir-Up Sunday

I love, love, love, the Collect for Advent 3.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

In The Episcopal Church, this is our Stir-Up Sunday.  Our brothers and sisters in the Mother Church in England, who, despite various attempts to replace it, still pledge allegiance to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer celebrated their Stir-Up Sunday three weeks ago, the Sunday Next Before Advent, as their Christmas puddings take much longer to set than the traditional American Christmas meal of ham or turkey or pasta fagioli.  They too have a great Stir-Up Prayer.

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In fact, Marion Hatchett (of blessed memory) points out that both are leftovers from the old Sarum usage.  “This one remnant of a serious of four prayers which began with ‘excita’ (stir up) used on four of the last five Sundays before Christmas in the Sarum missal, this prayer sets forth better than the others the themes of the two advents: the first in which He came in humility, and the second in which He comes in power; the first in which He came to save, and the second in which He comes to help and relieve.” (Commentary on the American Prayer Book, 167)

I kind of wish we still had all for Stir-Up prayers because I think it is a good image of what we hope God is about in our midst.  We want God to have an active role in our lives and in the world around us.  It’d be great if he would stir up his power.  It’d be great if he would stir up the wills of the faithful.  As one who’s been accused of stirring pot a time or two, I like the idea of God stirring the great cauldron of creation, causing the faithful to work hard against the sin of the world and using his power to protect us from the power of the adversary.

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