During the first week of Advent, I consume only clean protein, vegetables, and limited fruits. The following week, I add dairy foods, legumes, and more fruits. In the third week of my cleansing diet, I indulge in a limited amount of starchy carbohydrates. No desserts or sweets of any kind, with the exception of a bit of raw honey in tea or yogurt. When that first sensation of sugar surrounds my taste buds on Christmas Eve, I will experience pure joy and I look forward to that moment with great anticipation.
It seems the feasting season begins with Thanksgiving and continues on through New Year’s Day. In the past, however, fasting was mandatory for Christians during Advent to properly prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth. The practice varied over the years and between the different Christian traditions, but prayer always played a large part in this mini-Lent.
Most Christians are no longer required to fast during Advent, but many are reviving the tradition to help them prepare their hearts as they anticipate the great feast of Christmas. Fasting is a form of penance that spiritually prepares us for the coming of Jesus, our Savior. He saves us when we acknowledge our sins and our need for forgiveness, then take that one step further through acts of penance that prove the sincerity of our confession. Commonly practiced acts of penance during Advent include fasting, prayer, and giving to the poor.
Then our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then it was said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them. Psalm 126:2
Fasting helps us to overcome indulgent vices. It is food for the virtues of purity in thought and desire. Our flesh diminishes and our spirit soars to a renewed level of moral excellence. By depriving ourselves of worldly goods, fasting sharpens our ability to combat sin and act charitably. It also produces in us another effect that points to the essence of Advent. Longing. When we fast, we desire what we have willingly given up. Rather than responding with indulgence, we respond with prayer, asking God to satisfy the longings of our soul. Our empty stomachs and expectant hearts sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel to the God who can deliver us.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name. Luke 1:49
Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Mary rejoiced. God filled her, as he fills all of us who desire righteousness, with the best of blessings. Our hearts can remain satisfied as we contemplate, with hopeful anticipation, all that the birth of Baby Jesus means for us.
Is Advent a mini-Lent for you? If not, would you consider some form of fasting to enrich your preparations for the celebration feast of Christmas? Some Christians fast only for the few days before Christmas, so if you’re interested, there’s still time to give that a try.
MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup softened butter
1 slightly beaten egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Add butter, egg, milk, and vanilla. Stir until combined.
Drop dough by teaspoons about 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown.
Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely.
JOYOUS NOEL TO YOU AND YOURS!