Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the First Sunday of Advent, 11/27/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Advent1 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the First Sunday of Advent, click here.
There’s a tradition among some Christians to celebrate what is called “Stir-up Sunday.” It gets its name from the chief petition of a prayer for God to stir up our hearts, that we would bring forth the fruit of good works.
As a fun way of marking that Sunday, which would have been last week, families take turns stirring up their Christmas puddings. Fruits, spices, and other fun stuff would go into the mix, so that you get a tasty picture of all the good things that God gives to the world through us, as we await His return on the last day.
And then, this Sunday, we pray another “Stir-up prayer.”
“Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.”
What does it look like for God to “Stir up” His power, and come? If we were going to go home tonight and have another “Stir-up” Sunday, what would we mix in? One thing is for certain, it shouldn’t be rushed.
God was pleased to take His time, to wait for just the right moment, the appropriate season, in which to bring forth our Savior. And He is pleased to wait now, that more would be brought into His kingdom.
In the prophecy given through Jeremiah, God promised a righteous branch, a wise king, who would execute justice and righteousness. A king who would stir up His power, and deliver His people in a far greater way than before, when He first stirred up His power to deliver His people out of Egypt. “Those days,” God said, were coming.
And they did. God stirred up His power, and then He laid it aside, He gave it up. Like yeast makes bread rise slowly and silently, our Lord grew in His mother’s womb. And when nobody was looking, Jesus, the Bread come down from Heaven, was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread. But it wasn’t ever “a day” that was coming. It was “the days,” that were coming. Christmas was not the end, but the beginning. And so, one day gave way to another, for 30 years as the Righteous Branch of David grew as a tree planted by water grows and bears fruit.
Then the days came for the Righteous Branch to be cut down. He came as King, triumphantly into Jerusalem.
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” verses 4-5
Prayers of “Hosanna” “Come and save us,” filled the air like sweet incense, or like a well-stirred pudding fills a home with pleasing aromas. God was stirring up His power to come and save us. And on the cross, He did. There He was scorched in the heat of the Father’s wrath for us. There Satan thought he would have his dessert, but his lying tongue was burned, and his belly was burst.
The days that were coming had arrived and were coming still. For three days later, the Righteous Branch of David would be raised up again, when God stirred up His power and brought Jesus out from the grave, just as He had brought Him forth from Mary’s womb.
So, what do we put into a pudding, a dessert, on this “Stir-up” Sunday? On the one hand, we’ve already baked that cake. Violence done to others, and violence done to us. Works of darkness, drunkenness, sexual immorality, quarreling, jealousy. It’s a bitter, poisonous recipe, and if that is what you stir up for yourself, it will kill you. It isn’t the only thing there, but when we open up our hearts and minds like a pantry cupboard, this is what we tend to find.
We hand all of that to Jesus in Confession and Absolution. For Jesus has stirred up His power to come and save us; to drink that cup and eat that deadly dish for us.
Though it is a wonderful thing for Jesus to take these things away from us, He does not leave us empty handed. He stirs up His power to come and save you, to give you His salvation.
He stirs up His power, He stirs up His Word, mixing it into water at Holy Baptism, into your ears at Holy Absolution, and into Bread and Wine at His Holy Supper. So, feel free to go home and make a “Stir-up” dessert as sweet as you like. Fill it with candies and cherries and whatever you like. It will never be sweeter than what God has stirred up here at Font, Pulpit, and altar.
But even this is a foretaste of the feast to come. For the days God’s people waited for have come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There is now but one day on the horizon. One great, last day that goes on forever and ever.
So, like kids filled with sweet things; be alert, stay awake. Salvation is nearer now to us than when we first believed. Let us walk properly, as in the daytime, filled with faith, hope, love, and patience. Stirred up to a life of good works.
And you who wait on the Lord will not be ashamed.