Sunday next before Advent – Christ the King
Ephesians 1: 15-end Matthew 25: 31-end
Hooray! At last, the Sunday next before Advent has arrived. Of the several seasons and festivals that the Church celebrates I find the season of Advent rates reasonably high amongst the others. More about that next Sunday when Advent Sunday is upon us. However, today we are one week ahead of Advent with its own special themes.
One reason for my liking this Sunday especially is that it heralds the forthcoming festival of Christmas. I am a big child at heart and I do like this time of year. Today especially because of its alternative title – Stir up Sunday. It all started in Victorian times when the family would gather together to make the Christmas Pudding. When all of the ingredients were mixed together it was fairly heavy. To stir the pudding was quite a task and all of the members of the family would take their turn at stirring up the pudding and then make a wish. The ideal time to make the pudding was at the end of November giving it time to mature. The Book of Common Prayer collect for this Sunday begins with the words, “Stir up the wills of thy faithful people”. It was not long before this Sunday became known as “Stir up Sunday”.
Today we still have this link as the Common Worship readings and Collects for today have kept the “Stir up the wills …” as the Post-Communion prayer. Christmas is getting closer.
But the Church, in its wisdom, has not written the prayer with the words, “Stir up the puddings of your faithful people….” But, “Stir up the wills of ….”. Ever since the beginning of June we have been in the ‘green’ season. The colour of the altar cloths has been predominantly green reflecting the background theme of all of the Sundays until now, of growing. The readings we have heard, or read, have been building up on one another just as the curriculum at school builds up, week by week, to teach a subject.
The readings have taught us of the love of God for each one of his people, and we all are his people. His love for us gave us his Son. Week by week, from Trinity Sunday until now we have been reading of the teaching of Jesus following the Gospel of St. Matthew. Through this writing we have gained knowledge of the Christian way of life, how we should use the gifts given to us from God, and how we should relate to our fellow beings. Next year (beginning on Advent Sunday) we shall be learning through the Gospel of St. Mark.
Today’s reading from St. Matthew spells out for us just how we should relate to others. By caring for them, by helping them, by befriending them we are not only directing our aid to others but also to God. Jesus teaches that “insomuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”. It should be second nature that when we see someone in need that we should go and attend to them in whatever way. To neglect this teaching is to incur the second part of the words of Jesus, “—'in so far as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away to eternal punishment”.
There is a reward for following the way of Jesus’ teaching. “the righteous will go away to eternal life”. Our spiritual life has been growing throughout the Trinity season. We are better equipped to open our eyes and see about us. We can see God at work through the actions of others. We can show God at work through our own deeds.
Going through life and seeing opportunities about us to step in and give assistance and help becomes automatic almost. It becomes part of our very being. It is our will to go and help. And so we come back to that prayer, “Stir up the wills of ….”. As for Christmas Pudding – Yum!
Collect for the Sunday next before Advent
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.