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.
For those unfamiliar with the practices of a more liturgically oriented church (e.g., Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc.), the Collect is a prayer that is said just after a hymn of praise in the worship service and generally takes the following form:
2) Address to the person of the Trinity
3) Attribute or quality of the deity related to the prayer
4) The prayer or request itself
5) Reason or expected result of the prayer
6) Christian conclusion
7) General affirmation
Using the aforementioned Collect as an illustration, we have:
1) Let us pray
2) O Lord
3) The will of the faithful people
4) Stir up the will of the faithful people
5) That the will of the people would result in good works so that the people may be rewarded
6) Through Jesus Christ our Lord
From the book Christmas Customs and Traditions by Frank Muir (1975), we also learn this about “Stir Up Sunday:”
By tradition it was the last occasion on which Christmas puddings and cakes could be begun if they were to be ready by 25 December.
Such holiday foods needed time to age before being baked and served, hence the need to “stir up” the pudding mixture well in advance. The pudding itself was not without a modicum of symbolism, as is recorded in Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History by Andrea Praeger (1975), this particular quote being taken from The Food Timeline website:
The plum pudding’s association with Christmas takes us back to medieval England and the Roman Catholic Church’s decree that the ‘pudding should be…prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honor the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction.’
While I do not practice the tradition of baking a Christmas pudding, I see some practicality in the picture it provides, as outlined above, in that it marries information about the birth of Christ with what is known about the ministry of Christ. The pudding seems like a helpful tie-in between the Christmas story itself and the good works of service performed by the followers of the Savior whose birth they commemorate at Christmas; of course, understanding always that no one is saved by such works but by the grace of God alone. The fact that the Christmas celebrants are required to wait on the scrumptious holiday dessert just as they have to wait for the Second Coming of Christ provides a valuable object lesson as well, one that is often missed in our modern-day Christmas preparations.
How about you? What traditions do you observe that help teach the children in your life about the meaning of Christmas and the life of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, a life that believers everywhere should imitate?
*The Collect begins with the words "Let us pray."