November 24 is Christ the King Sunday in many traditional churches across the world. This Sunday marks the last day of Pentecost and acts as bridge to Advent, the Christmas cycle and new liturgical year. Christ the King reminds us that there is more than a baby Savior at Christmas; we serve a sovereign Lord.
Did you know that the final Sunday in November is also “Stir Up Sunday”? According to Wikipedia, it’s an informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent. It serves as a popular British Christmas tradition that was allegedly introduced by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.
Why is it called “Stir Up Sunday”? (Glad you asked). The celebration harks from a reading from the Book of Common Prayer for this day which states, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The “stir-up” admonition was a reminder to the women in the pews to stir up their Christmas puddings after church. Each family would take turns stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon. They would use a clockwise motion–east to west–to symbolize the travels of the Wise Men. Thirteen ingredients would be used in the recipe to commemorate Jesus and the twelve disciples. Often the pudding would be set ablaze to represent the fiery passion of Christ. Coins would sometimes be tucked into the pudding. Family members who found the money in their serving were given a blessing of health and prosperity for the coming year.
When I learned about Stir Up Sunday, I thought of the scripture in Hebrews 10:24 which states, “….let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24 RSV). The word for “stir up” has been variously translated as “stimulate,” “spur,” “encourage,” “incite” and “provoke.” The Greek word, “paroxusmos,” gave rise to our English word, “paroxysm,” meaning a sudden and violent attack. It was a forceful word in ancient literature that could be used positively or negatively.
It got me to asking some questions:
- In the church, do we stir each other up to do good works — or do we turn a fire hose on someone who is beginning to catch fire for the Lord?
- Do we consider ways to motivate one another to claim our callings and ministries? The word in Hebrews 10:24 literally means to “set your mind down” and came to signify contemplation or deep thought. So often we think about what we can get out of the church instead of thinking of ways to motivate others to pursue their spiritual gifts.
- Does your church have a budget line-item to fund new ministries? Years ago, I attended a conference in which the host church did that very thing. They believed that the Holy Spirit was alive and active, calling people to ministry–and they put their money where their mouth was to tell the congregation, “If God is giving you a vision and passion for something, tell us about it and we will fund it.”
Have a blessed Stir Up Sunday. Provoke someone to love, stir them up to follow God!