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Advent Fasting

Did you know that in some church traditions Advent is a season of fasting and prayer, in a similar way to Lent?

This year on 14 November I received a photo from a member of my family to show me the nativity scene they had created. I thought it was rather early for getting out the Christmas nativity, but as I looked closely I saw that there was two number cubes in the scene showing ’40’.

So I asked about them. This family member has a Catholic background and, like many Catholic and Orthodox traditions, they keep 40 days of Advent. As I enquired further they told me that this year it seemed all the more important to celebrate Jesus for longer. 

The countdown started so this picture is at day 32!

It got me thinking and praying and doing a little research. The Nativity Fast, also called Philip (Philippian) Fast or St Martin’s Lent, is a period of 40 days of abstinence in preparation for the Nativity of Jesus. For some it begins on the Feast of St Philip (14 Nov), which is 40 days from Christmas Day. For others it starts on the 28 Nov which is 40 days to the 6 Jan which is the Feast of Epiphany. In the Western Church at some point it took the name ‘Advent’, and somehow got shortened to the four Sundays/weeks before Christmas.

I felt convicted by the Lord to something with this, for this year. So much in our lives right now seems out of our control with politics, pandemic, restrictions and chaos. Christmas is going to be completely different for so many people this year, including me. I felt like the Lord asked me to take control of my preparations this year. He wants me to forget the commercial, cultural norms; to not worry about the traditions I can’t keep; and to focus on Jesus, who is not only the ‘reason for the season,’ but the reason for living! 

The Nativity Fast is used to help people to focus on the Incarnation. To remind them to prepare for Jesus, as well as celebrate His coming. As I thought about this I remembered the command and promise God made to us when my husband and I started living bi-locationally between the UK and USA. He told us to ‘be fully present’ in the place we are at any time, and He would be with us. And that seems to me to be what the Incarnation is all about. Jesus – Emmanuel – God with us – Dwelling among us – fully present. He is already with us!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John1:14 NIV

So, I am fasting (or abstaining) from a few things to help me focus more intently on Jesus who is with me; to practice healthy wholeness; and to pray for the fullness of the Spirit for myself and others. This year I am choosing to do something different, not because I am forced to by the circumstances of this world, but because Jesus has invited me abide with Him.  

This year I can’t …

  • Put up all our shiny Christmas lights and big tree and hang up the stockings (because they are in England and we are in the USA).
  • Feast on my Mum’s amazing mince pies and Wensleydale cheese.
  • Be with my family in the UK.
  • Go for long walks across the Yorkshire Wolds and by the seaside.
  • Have so many people around the table for Christmas Dinner that we can’t move around the room!

But, I CAN…

  • Shine the light of Jesus through my life.
  • Fast and pray through 40 days of Advent to feast on Jesus and celebrate Him every day.
  • Be fully present with those whom Jesus has placed us with right now (in person and online) and receive the blessing of being part of an amazing family of faith.
  • Walk everyday with Jesus, who leads me beside still pastures and is the One who knows what it means to live in the mix of sorrow and joy at the same time.
  • Join with all the company of Heaven and declare: “Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven For there is peace and a good hope given to those on whom His favour rests” Luke 2:14 

Samantha is an Inspire Missioner living in the UK and USA, serving as the Inspire Administrator, and ‘at home” wherever Jesus is!

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