Our Poet Theologian in Virtual Residence, Hannah Stone, considers the start of Advent and shares her Christmas carol to ‘stir up’ our advent reflections.


As we’re now in Advent, I’ve just missed the correct time to write about Stir Up Sunday, where secular festive preparations (stirring the Christmas pudding before it is left to rest in alcoholic stupor till Christmas day) collide with the wonderful ‘collect’ or ‘gathering prayer’ for the last Sunday before Advent:

‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, with 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.’


I’ve always loved Advent, if I’m honest, even more than the feast itself. It’s a period of anticipation full of hope, gratitude, and also an opportunity for self-reflection and spiritual preparedness. It frustrates me that so often the answer to the question ‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ consists largely of a list of presents bought, cards written and food ordered. As I write, we have just had the announcement from the Prime Minister of a 5-day period of relaxation of social distancing restrictions in December in order to permit some gathering with loved ones over the festive period. Churches will soon open again for worship. At the same time, we are urged to reflect on how we use that permission. Even with these new arrangements there will be some difficult decisions, some dark days.


The themes for the four Sundays of Advent focus predominantly on hope and joy, which we certainly need. But the advent liturgies, hymnody and readings also remind us of the prophetic insights of John the Baptist, of the second coming of Christ at the end of time, of the service and sacrifice of Mary in bearing the Christ-child and in her grief at his sacrificial death. Alongside the triumphant and celebratory congregational carols are many (especially from the Basque tradition) which incorporate these more nuanced themes. Here is a Christmas carol I wrote (which has just been set by Matthew Oglesby) which I hope will ‘stir up’ your advent reflections.


‘I will prepare’

Said Mary to the child unborn,
I will prepare a place for you.
Make not a palace, he replied,
For humble dwelling is enough.
She placed her newborn in the crib,
A tabernacle close with men,
Where simple folk and creatures met
To bless him with a choir of angels bright.

Said Jesus to his mother’s grief,
I will prepare a place for you.
She held her arms out to receive
His lifeless body from the cross,
While angels to his father’s house
Did shepherd that dear spirit home,
Where there are many rooms on high
To welcome saviour and the saved alike.

We will prepare a place for him:
Let us our homes with weary share,
Upon the lonely lavish love,
And cradle frightened strangers here,
In humble hearts he’ll make a throne.
And lay a feast for all who starve.
O Let us hear the angels’ song,
And welcome in the little child with joy.


Photo :  Joyful (@joyfulcaptures) | Unsplash Photo Community