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by Susan Russell

This week we light the third candle on the Advent wreath and pray the prayer “Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us.” Sounds great – but what exactly does that mean? Sometimes I think we pray these things a little too lightly – it doesn’t hurt to occasionally consider what it is we’re asking for. What exactly happens when that power comes among us – rests upon us?

Here is how the prophet Isaiah describes it:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.

There you have it: a recipe for “stirring it up” if I’ve ever heard one. Good news to the oppressed is not generally welcomed by the oppressors (see also: the ones with the power.) Liberty to the captives is likewise not happily received by the captors or the release of prisoners by their jailers. In fact, it turns out that “proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor” is pretty much guaranteed to stir stuff up enough that the proclaimer can end up in some serious trouble.

Isaiah found it so when he preached liberation to a captive Israel. Jesus found it so when he preached this text as his first sermon at his home parish in Nazareth. And then there was John the Baptizer – the voice crying in the wilderness who stirred things up so much that the temple leaders sent servants to ask, “Who are you? By whose authority do you stir things up out here?  And here in Pasadena “stirring it up” is part of the DNA of All Saints Church – arguably a foundational element of our life together as a community of faith.

What are you called to “stir up” this third week of Advent?
Who are the brokenhearted you can reach out to?
How — together — can we continue to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor to a world … and a nation … in desperate need of good news?


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