This post, in addition to being a part of Rookie Anglican, is part of a series on the Collects of the Christian Year (ACNA), called “Collect Reflections.” If you’re just jumping in, make sure to check out the introductory post, “Announcing Collect Reflections.” All Collect Reflection posts can be found here.
Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and as we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the race that is set before us, 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
Staying Awake in a Weary World
After being told to “stay awake and watch,” Peter and the disciples fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane while Jesus cried out, “Let this cup pass from me!” Jesus was in such agony that he sweated blood. Still, they slept. He whispered, “nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” They slept on because of their exhaustion and sorrow.
We’ve been told all Advent to watch, to “stay awake” and to “be prepared.” Yet we’re still sleepy, aren’t we?
We’re human beings. We aren’t God. We get tired of watching, we get distracted, we drift off. It’s what we do. Even Abraham fell asleep while God was sealing his covenant (Genesis 15). Father Abraham fell into a deep sleep and God still spoke words of covenant grace over him, and his descendants.
Here we are on the cusp of Christmas Eve, perhaps tired, perhaps sorrowful. Maybe both. Things like shopping, baking, partying, caroling have taken up our Advent to some degree. Work, family, ministry, school, and/or medical treatments, family challenges, or financial struggles haven’t gone magically away because of the holidays. They are still there.
God Comes in Power
Christmas will still arrive. The sound of the bells, the carols, and the merrymaking will wake us up for a moment.
We will suddenly find ourselves at the Christ Mass, staring at the nativity. We’ll gaze at the beautiful virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. We’ll see Joseph standing by, watching and supporting. We’ll see the shepherds and the holy star, and the animals. Possibly we’ll laugh at the historically inaccurate animals, or cry with sorrow at the injustice of Joseph’s poverty and desperation, or shout with joy as Angels sing. We’ll wake up for that moment.
And this is exactly why the Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent calls upon the Lord to stir up his power within us, and to come to us in his great might. We don’t conjure up God. We don’t make him be present. He arrives. He comes in power and wakes us up. He shows up, and we bow down. What a mighty God we serve!
He doesn’t do this just to preen or prance. He does it to come among us, to be with us. He comes to be one of us, and live among us.
We are sorely hindered, that’s for sure. The race of life exhausts us. But God’s grace in Christ is inexhaustible. Bountiful, speedy grace that helps and delivers. Our sins are like heavy weights but his grace is a continual help and flow, removing the weights of shame, guilt, and fear. Grace is not a limited resource, it is the constant and continual face of God, redeeming and renewing the world.
We are awakened, graced, and empowered through this Christ Child who came, and will come again. As Mary heard this news, she sang of God working through the poor and the outcast, the weak. Those who know they have no strength. Those who know they need his grace. Those who know they sorrow. Those who know they fall asleep.
Mary herself is traditionally pictured as asleep when the Angel appeared by night to announce that she would bear the Messiah. She knew about God’s power to wake us up and stir up his power within us. She also knew what it means to trust God to work through our weaknesses, and to speedily deliver us.
To Deliver His People
We’re almost there! If you feel like sleeping, you are part of a long tradition that stretches from father Abraham through the Twelve, and on to today. We are sleepers, but he will awake us.
This Sunday, stumble into worship if you must. In your sorrow or exhaustion or fear or joy or pain, he will stir up his power within you at his altar. He will give you his very presence at his Holy Table. He will speak his Word over you, the Word of his bountiful grace and speedy power. He will deliver you.
In our day, he will stir up his sleeping Church. Where it is sorely hindered by sin, he will speedily help it. Behold, he brings good news of great joy, which shall be to all people! We will rejoice in his bountiful grace, and see his church arise from sleep. Again and again and again, he has done this. He will do it again.
And what a grace and power he gives. We will be a light to the world. We will triumph in him. We will witness his incarnation. We will rest in his love. We will be a holy people, because he will do it again through Jesus Christ our Lord.