A reflection on the readings for Advent 3:Isaiah 35: 1-10; Psalm 146 or Canticle 3 or Canticle 15; James 5:7-10 and Matthew 11:2-11 by the Rev. Camille, Hegg
The collect for Advent 3 is one of my favorites:
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.
I remember hearing this when I was a child and the priest talked about the day as “Stir up Sunday.” I always had the image of God standing at a stove and stirring a big pot of something that smelled good and tasted delicious. I imagined soup or the chicken and dumplings my mother made. The clearest and most present and pleasant image is that of the chocolate fudge she made. When she stirred it the smell was amazingly and delightfully magical. We kids couldn’t wait to taste it.
It was in the stirring of the pot that the smell came forth. In stirring the pot the vitality, the essence, were released. Also, expectation and hope. Expectation, of delicious soup or dumplings, or fudge! Hope, realized in the taste, and to a degree the delight in sharing. She usually made several batches of fudge and wrapped up packages to take to friends. The house smelled of chocolate all day. The kids got to help at all stages, including delivering the packages to the door of the designated recipients.
Until our 1979 prayer book this collect was used on “The Sunday Next Before Advent,” as it used to be called. How British/Anglican is that?! A parishioner who knows about these things told me that before everyone was taught to read, when that collect was read, the women knew it was time to go and mix and stir their fruit cakes and Christmas puddings. They knew Advent begins the next Sunday; Christmas is almost here. Fruitcakes and Christmas puddings need that much time to mature and ripen and come to their essence.
In the gospel this week John the Baptizer is in prison and sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one to come. In Luke some translations read that the people were “on tiptoe in expectation.” That phrase always reminds me of being a child and standing on tiptoe to look into the pots, especially that pot of fudge! As I got older I got to be the one to stir and therefore release those delightful smells.
This particular Sunday evokes images of God which are very feminine for me. God as cook; God as the one who nourishes; God as the one who gathers the ingredients of creation and forms that which is new and delightful; God who invites us to the table; God who teaches us to go out and feed and clothe and soothe; God as the source of power which comes from care and not violence; God who invites us to live in expectation and hope.
All of the readings for this day remind us of the delight that is store for us. In the midst of things which we cannot understand- violence, poverty, power struggles in our own government and throughout the world, and so much more- we do well to remember as the Epistle says, to rejoice, to continue in prayer, hold on to good, let our gentleness be known to everyone.
My prayer is that we be instruments who are able to transmit, stir up, inspire in our friends and leaders that expectation and hope. Let us be on tiptoe expecting good things and stirring up the goodness that is in all of us and all humanity.