Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent

I love this collect for its powerful imagery and especially for its opening petition”Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us”

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.

Popular books discussing Christmas and Advent often mention that the Third Sunday of Advent was known in England as “Stirrup” Sunday because of the two opening words of the prayer. Whether that is true, I have no idea. In its current form, it is largely the work of Cranmer’s translation, who placed it as the collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. In fact, the Sarum Missal had four prayers on the Sundays preceding Christmas that began with the Latin “Excita”–“Stir up.”

The use of “Stir up” puts me in mind of the opening verses of Genesis:

In the beginning when God created* the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters.

But “stirring up” has many other parallels in scripture. Among the most interesting is in John’s story of Jesus healing the lame man at the Pool of Siloam; he was waiting in vain for some one to help him into the pool when the water was stirred up (John 5).

As an Advent collect, the emphasis on God coming among us in power, is obvious. But like the collect for the preceding Sunday, this one, too, asks for God’s grace to deliver us from our sins. God’s power, with the potential to destroy, can also save.

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