With all due respect to Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Third Sunday in Advent is often nicknamed “Stirrup Sunday” because of the fantastic Collect for this third week of our Advent journey. Here it is:
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 forever. Amen.
The Latin Excita! of the medieval collect, from which we derive our collect (basically “stir with passion”) is just perfect for this Sunday! Lord come whisk our lives from their normative holiday stupor, around and around, until all the bumpy, lumpy, clumpy parts are smoothed and perfectly enfolded into your divine recipe. What rough parts of our lives is God whisking to smooth? What complacent or stagnant corners need some stirring? The Collect continues, with somewhat of an entitled tone, with a condition upon God’s divine power coming straight towards us…..because our condition is so precarious due to sin’s lethal contagion, because it feels often like I am slogging through quicksand in a storm with lightning striking all around (how’s that for hindered?!! Feel free to fill in your own existential description <here>!!). We need your bountiful (and boundless) grace and mercy right now! “I want what I want when I want it the way I want it Lord, now!”
So in a few short lines, we direct the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth to get up, get going and dramatically crash into the very center of our world and our own lives, and then place stringent conditions upon how best to accomplish that cosmic intervention! Speedily, or in more contemporary parlance, like Warp Speed! (Anyone needing a brief explanation of our federal government’s use of a 23rd century fictive faster-than-light propulsion drive envisioned by Star Trek, by all means, you know who to call!) What does God have to bring with? Boundless grace and infinite mercy. To accomplish what? To not only help us navigate this life, but to deliver us. Save, rescue, redeem, transform, resurrect, resuscitate, revivify (isn’t that just a great word?)….and every other descriptor the English language fields to narrate the salvific, reconciling love of God when God’s love shows up.
Well, maybe this year God took our prayerful entreaty a bit too seriously!! As C.S. Lewis famously observes, everyone gets ultimately what they want, but they may not like it as much as they thought! Can you actually imagine what life would look like if our settled reality was shattered in a relatively brief moment, if multiple challenges from every dimension of life suddenly exploded into our daily lives, if we all felt nothing like our true selves and the simplest tasks became immensely difficult?! And we prayed that God would show up in that moment to deliver a decisive rescuing healing faster than anyone ever thought possible? That we could experience God’s infinite grace and boundless mercy personally, communally, nationally, globally? That we could be, to include another beloved literary and cinematic franchise, both shaken and stirred? Who could ever imagine anything like that? God would never fulfill this Collect so dramatically…would He?