We usually talk about fasting during Lent. So it seems wrong to talk about fasting when we are supposed to celebrate Advent by looking at the meals around Jesus. But I want to suggest we can understand fasting as sharing rather than as giving up.
Usually, fasting is giving something up. When I think of giving up food or coffee (shudder) or media, I think about my suffering. And I think about the credibility I build.
But Isaiah redefines fasting. He quotes God saying,
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Suddenly, we aren’t giving up something merely to give it up. We are giving up part of our meal to share it with someone else. We are giving up some of our freedom, our “free time” and using it to bring justice to others.
John’s message to those wanting to change their lives echoes Isaiah:
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Isaiah and John are teaching people to live in community that reflects God’s compassion and provision. It’s possible that the reason some people have much is to share with people who don’t. And sharing includes attention, time, clothing, food, space, love, leverage, influence, freedom, faith.
For Advent, it’s better to have half a meal together than no meal alone.
Sometime during this Advent season, I invite you to consider diapers for Advent.