We are almost a week into Advent, and I hope your house is as merry as mine is. The massive confiner is up and lit, and liquified chocolate is on tap. The Christian Church cannot require anyone to keep days, seasons or festivals (Col. 3:16), but as the body of Christ has come into its maturity, we can voluntarily do all kinds of festive things. The coming of the Lord is a big deal, and preparing in a big way as we commemorate it and anticipate his coming again is fully appropriate. How could we not?
In old covenant the one prescribed fast day was Yom Kippur, the day of atonement when the Jews were to afflict their souls. One day. Now that we live in the kingdom (come and coming), is it appropriate to methodically fast at length? I would argue it doesn’t make sense to do this. Fasting occurs throughout the Bible when people are looking for answers to prayer or having a specific occasion for repentance. If you need to clean the house, do it. But don’t think you’re serving the house when you clean it for no other reason than you think the exercise itself makes you holy. That is false if not evil, especially if done to be seen by others (Matt. 6:16).
Many people find an annual spiritual “spring cleaning” of sorts to be helpful. God gives us daily, weekly and yearly calendars in part so we can track, evaluate and enjoy time, work an rest like he does on the Sabbath of the creation week (Gen. 1:31-2:3). If someone wants a biblical devotion linked to Advent, then perhaps the best course is to focus on the way God prepared his people for the coming of Jesus:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Mal. 4:5-6).
John the Baptizer came in the Spirit of Elijah, and part of job in preparing the way of Jesus was turn fathers to children and children to fathers. How many people are fasting for Advent and yet haven’t turned to their children and parents in love, respect, forgiveness, hope, and gratitude? How much father hunger burns holes in our souls this season? This is the fast that God requires, and one that makes the season bright.