Advent starts this weekend. Everyone is all excited about Advent calendars, Advent wreaths, Saint John of the Mall. Most of us don’t think about another historic element of Advent: fasting.
Fasting is an odd thing to think about during a month that includes Christmas baking, Christmas parties, Christmas candy, and the return of Chex mix. But when we think about our comments after the holidays, when introverts are trying to recover from all the people time, and many people are blaming their lethargy on “I ate too much”, we could step back now and say, “What can I chose to not consume so that I can anticipate the important things more?”
For example, I was reading Paul’s words to Timothy, his apprentice. At one point, Paul encourages Timothy to work at being an unashamed workman. It’s tied, in part, to a clear and competent understanding of God’s word. What I noticed is that in the surrounding couple of paragraphs, Paul cautions Timothy three times to avoid pointless chatter and quarrels about words. So we could spend a few weeks fasting from arguing from editorials in order to devote time to reading and reflection.
What if, instead of being involved in buying patterns that take advantage of other people, we started looked for injustice and started to seek justice? What if we fasted from our desires and cared for the needs of other people?
Imagine that instead of simply saying, “I’m not eating today” and then eating twice as much tomorrow, you took the food you would have eaten today and you went to Friemann Square and had a picnic, eating WITH the hungry and homeless. Not giving just food, but presence and time?
Imagine that instead of simply saying, “I’m not going to buy more clothes today,” knowing that you can buy tomorrow, you took the money that you would have used and you buy new clothes for people who have none. A suit for the man who can’t interview without one. A dress for the singer who can’t be in the choir without one.
Fasting this way would transform Advent. And our experience of Christmas.