The Sunday next before Advent.
1. EXCEPT the Lord build the house : their labour is but lost that build it.
2. Except the Lord keep the city : the watchman waketh but in vain.
3. It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness : for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
4. Lo, children and the fruit of the womb : are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord.
5. Like as the arrows in the hand of the giant : even so are the young children.
6. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them : they shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
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.
Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 23.5-8
Psalter: Psalm 146, 147 | 148, 149, 150
Epistle Reading: (Ephesians 2.1-10)
Gospel Reading: St. John 6.1-14
Toon: “As this is the last Collect of the Christian Year, we may regard it as summing up in petition a major theme of the Collects, Epistles and Gospels for the Year past. And this theme may be simply stated: in the Christian life, unless the human will is engaged then all thought and feeling may be, or even are, wasted.
One of the great spiritual diseases of the Church and of individual Christians is lethargy. We remain content with where we are on the highway of holiness and in the climbing of Mount Zion. There is always tomorrow, we say to ourselves; then we can strive the more. Today we can relax! As pilgrims heading for the celestial city we are tempted to take too many rests on the way and thus do not seek to conquer more of the terrain & path in front of us.
The call is to press on towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). We are often deaf and stationary and do not pay heed to that call. We need to be awakened, stirred up and energized to make headway!
So the major petition of this Collect is that God the Father will cause the Holy Ghost to stir up our lazy and inactive wills and to rouse us from the slumber of complacency. Yet, as we know, a fire when stirred up does not always blaze and a sleeper, when roused, does not always get up! In the final analysis we are given a measure of freedom by our Creator so that we can respond to his call as persons with dignity and freedom and in love. This said, it is also true to say that our wills are naturally weak and need divine inspiration and assistance in order to be directed towards the glorifying of God in good works.
Thus there must be both stirring up from heaven and wholehearted cooperation by ourselves to the motions of the Spirit in our souls.
We can have the best of intentions and we can have the sweetest of feelings about those intentions but unless the will is engaged then there is no action! And action by the will is inspired and energized by the Spirit in souls that are prepared to do what is right.
In this prayer, God is thought of as the Judge who is the Lord of the harvest. Our reward (though altogether undeserved) will be apportioned to the measure of the good fruit that we produce. Obviously, we cannot bring forth plenteously such good fruit without an unfailing perseverance and unceasing exertion which only a resolved will can supply. Let us ponder for a moment the amount of work that is necessary to produce a good harvest in the world of nature. The farmer has to accept the conditions and provisions of nature (e.g., sunshine & rain, wind and frost) and persevere week by week in his varied tasks for many months until he sees the purpose of his labour in the plenteous harvest. If he did not prune and water, feed and protect, there would be a reduced harvest or none at all. Likewise, there is no fruit of the Spirit produced in our lives if we simply sit back and do not cooperate day by day, week by week, with the Spirit of the Lord, who assists us to cultivate our souls, intellect, emotions and will, aright.
The idea of plenteous reward for good works freely and lovingly done for the glory of God is a scriptural doctrine. Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Galatians 6:9); Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). Of course, the rewards are at the end of the age and pertain to the life of the world to come.
Then, let us be clear, we offer this prayer not on the basis of our own merits and achievements (assuming we have any!) but through the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, in and through whom alone there will be reward for the faithful in the age to come….” (http://www.pbs.org.uk/the-bcp/the-sunday-next-before-advent).