Advent Evening Prayer Reflection- December 15, 2023

Let us Pray,

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

As you know our reflections at these services of Evening Prayer during this advent season are focusing on the four advent collects Those prayers that sum up or collect all of our prayers around a particular theme and are assigned to the particular Sunday and weeks of the year. As such these prayers have, over time, developed a pretty standardized formula that goes pretty much like this First we address God, then we acknowledge something about God, then we make our petition…we ask God for something based on the attribute of God we have just acknowledged, and then we give our aspiration…voicing what we hope the thing we just asked for will help us to do and then we conclude this portion of the prayer almost always ends a request that God grant what we have asked for Jesus sake.

         I start with all that because first, I think it is good information to know and can help us better understand this central part of our liturgies each week and how each of these prayers are part of the lex orandi, or law of worship, reflect the churches lex credenda, or law of belief. But also, secondarily because it is fascinating that despite centuries of standardization the address/petition in this week’s collect is completely unique.

It is the only collect in the entirety of our current prayer book that begins by asking God to stir up! It is such a great phrase but what does it mean? I think that, put plainly, it means we ask God to act! We ask God to act because as the prayer goes on to say we are sorely hindered by our sins. Because of our brokenness we are not able to help ourselves, despite our best efforts and intentions we cannot fix things, we cannot even stop ourselves from doing the things we know are bad for us. At least not on our own but that is where the good news comes in! The prayer ends by reminding us that God’s grace and mercy is both bountiful or overflowing and speedy to help us, and this is where we look not only forward but also backwards because it is in Jesus Christ, through whom we make our prayer that God demonstrated his power most fully and effectively. For in Jesus God showed power by laying it aside so that he could take on our humanity and experience our broken, and sinful world as one of us, sanctifying the entirety of the human condition by living it meeting even death itself and enveloping it in love and light.

It is because of that first advent that we can have hope for the second. We are still sorely hindered by our sins but because of God’s faithfulness in Christ, and our membership in Christ through baptism God’s power is at work among us and in us helping us to overcome the limits of our fallen nature… to cast of the works of darkness, to forsake our sins and putting on the armor of light to work for the good. We cannot save ourselves, we cannot save the world… but because God stirred himself to come among us two thousand years ago we can cooperate with his grace as co-laborers. Knowing that he is working through us every day… and that when the fullness of time has come and all have come to repentance…  he will come again to complete the work he started raising up and restoring that which had been cast down and making all things new. And that is good news of great joy indeed.

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