Stir Up

graphic for Jeffrey Petten's December 2022 column

One of the traditions which has somewhat gone by the wayside is “Stir Up” Sunday. In The Book of Common Prayer, the collect for the Sunday before Advent begins with the words “Stir Up.” Many people took this indication as the time to stir the mixture that would make Christmas pudding, and my favourite: dark fruit cake. I think Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had the right intention to place that collect for the Sunday before Advent: we need to be stirred up. 

Of course, in our time, the Sunday before Advent is known as the Reign of Christ Sunday, or The Feast of Christ the King. This indeed goes hand in hand with what we celebrate within the Advent season. We are preparing our hearts and our minds, our souls and bodies, for the second coming of Christ the King. It is in this second coming that we wait for the time for the world to be put right. In Advent we wait for the words of Matthew 25 to come to fruition when “the Son of Man comes in his glory and he will separate his people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” To wait for this, to anticipate this, and to participate in this, our souls need to be stirred. To be stirred to is to take to heart the words of John the Baptist: “Repent and return to the Lord.” 

By the time you are reading this article, we will have already participated in the liturgy for the first Sunday of Advent. We will have heard the word for us to be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. We will have begun the stirring process of cakes and cookies for Christmas. Yet we need to stir our souls so that as we prepare for the birth of the child who was born in the poorest of places, yet greatest of kings, we are stirred up with thought and emotion for his second coming. Let us be stirred and let us be ready to celebrate who Jesus is and what Jesus is for us. 

So as you stir up your ingredients for your Christmas pudding or your Christmas cake, think about how it is that Jesus of Nazareth can stir up your life and stir up the world and make the Kingdom of God not only a reality of the future but a reality of the here and now. 

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people,
that richly bearing the fruit of good works,
we may by you be richly rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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