As the calendar turns from Thanksgiving Day to the day after, many of us psychologically welcome the Christmas season. In our culture, this is very easy to do as we navigate streets decorated with lights, pass Christmas tree lots, schedule holiday gatherings, hear carols and Christmas songs streaming from speakers, and—of course—try to find a place to park at the mall. The Christian calendar differs from our culture’s approach; the Christian year ends five Sundays prior to Christmas with the Feast of Christ the King. The new year begins the next Sunday with the Season of Advent, and this is not the start of the Christmas season; it is a time of repentance and fasting as we await the arrival of Jesus (remembering his birth and awaiting his second coming).
The Christian calendar wisely balances times of feasting and times for fasting. Our worship and formation are dependent on times of intensifying our hunger for God and times to celebrate his appearing and provision in our lives. Fasting is one of those ascetic disciplines we often avoid. In my own life I struggle to practice this discipline regularly. Left to my own devices, I would probably leave fasting for others. Seasons like Advent and Lent in the Christian calendar confront us, reminding us that we are sinners in need of repentance; forgetful and need to reflect and remember; and in need of discipline and fasting to regain our focus and hunger for God.
Don’t be too easily swept up into our cultural Christmas spirit. Take the path before us in Advent and enter into this time of preparation as we wait for the coming of Christ. Join other Christians in slowing down enough to remember, repent, and reignite your hunger for God through fasting.