“Stir up, O Lord” . . . and bake at 350

Have you noticed that each Prayer of the Day during Advent begins with the words, "Stir up"?

  • 1 Advent: "Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come . . ."
  • 2 Advent: "Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way . . ."
  • 3 Advent: "Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God, and strengthen our faith . . ."
  • 4 Advent: "Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come . . ."

Each time I offer these prayers, I imagine God with a mammoth wooden spoon, stirring things up in a huge cauldron (perhaps that cauldron is "the deep" from Genesis 1?).  In all the church year the words "stir up" appear only in the prayers of Advent.  Why, there is no stirring up in any other time of the church year, not even Pentecost!  But there’s lots of stirring up in Advent!  Why is that?  What is it about Advent and stirring?  Perhaps there’s a connection between Advent prayers and baking Christmas cookies . . .

We also ask God to do some stirring in the Affirmation of Baptism liturgy (pg 236, ELW pew edition):

Stir up in _____ the gift of your Holy Spirit . . .
Father in heaven, for Jesus’ sake stir up in _____ the gift of your Holy Spirit . . .

"Stir up" also appears in a prayer for lay professional leaders, though in this prayer we ask that the work of lay leaders might "stir up each of us to a life of fruitful service" (pg 74, ELW pew edition).  God is not doing any stirring in this instance.  Apron off.

"Stir up" doesn’t move me – doesn’t stir me, so to speak.  I find it almost hokey.  Can anybody give me some background on this lingo?  Perhaps I just need to see this recipe language in a new light to appreciate it better.

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

3 thoughts on ““Stir up, O Lord” . . . and bake at 350

  1. It comes from our collect for Advent 3 that begins “Stir up”. Y’all liked it so much you got “stir up” crazy throughout all of Advent. Prior to the ’79 book it was “Raise up” and was appointed for Advent 4… It all goes back to the Latin “Excita” that was used in the Sarum Missal for Advent 4.

  2. I think Derek is on to something there. “Stir up” no doubt has little to do with the kitchen. Although, I’m glad to see that you are domestically-minded these days, Chris.
    The Latin excita likely has some more intricate meanings that could be better expressed with a variety of words, ditching the repetition in favor of flexibility in the translation.
    Given that we Presbyterians are generally lower on the liturgy scale, our Prayers of the Day in Advent don’t show any such Latin origins. I’ll need to wait and listen more to find something similar from our tradition. If anyone does more research into all this, I’d like to see it.
    However, I would like to point y’all away from liturgy and towards the Bible. The Hebrew, to be exact. “Stir up” is a very common phrase in the Hebrew Scriptures. My Hebrew is rusty, otherwise, I would give you the word or words most commonly associated with it. Take this for a start: In just a quick search of the words “stir up”, I got several hits that all had to do with war, violence, and strife. Only one, Song of Songs, uses it differently. “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and the wild does: do not stir up or awaken love until it is ready!”
    Re-interpreting “stir up” away from its more bellicose meanings and towards peaceful and positive implications is a good place to start in describing the Advent season, and the coming of God, “in a nutshell” (in nuce for you Luther scholars).

  3. Oh, I actually love the phrase “stir up”! I don’t associate it with cooking, though (although your image of a giant spoon is very cozy and domestic!). Instead, it always makes me think of the Holy Spirit stirring things up in our lives and hearts – it reminds me of wind, of beginnings, of things getting started.

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