Today begins the Advent season. Advent means “coming.” It is a period of preparation for the coming of Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ. Just like we prepare for Pascha, we also are asked to prepare for this great feast with a 40 day fast. There are similarities to the Pascha fast but in practice it is a much less severe fasting period.
Normally this upcoming period a harried time filled with social gatherings, lavish gift buying, and many parties. It is a period where the pace of activity leaves little time for God. The Church asks us to slow down and simplify our lives during the period so we can appreciate the true meaning of this upcoming feast of the Nativity. The Apostles or Church Fathers did not call for gift giving and celebratory parties prior to Nativity. It was only after His birth that the angels, shepherd and kings celebrated the coming of our Lord. Following the Nativity Tradition does provide a 12 day period of celebration without any fasting. This is the time to plan your parties and gift giving. Take the initiative and begin to change the cycle, celebrating after the Feast day, so we can properly prepare for the Nativity feast in a spiritual manner.
In this time of preparation you can work on self-discipline by creating time for reflection on the deeper meaning of the upcoming feast. Take time to read the Scriptures that include the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Think about what is a true Godly way of life that God's Incarnation brought to us. Clarify what are our responsibilities for self-sacrifice and almsgiving. Make time for works of charity and helping other who are in need.
In your meditations during this period reflect on Why Christ came into the world. Read the account of the fall of mankind in Genesis and think of the fallen condition we have inherited from Adam and Eve. Seek to understand why God had to send His son to save us and renew mankind. Reflect on the wonder of a virgin birth and the nature of the person God chose to give his Son flesh. Think about the magnitude of the gift God has given us.
The fast period is intended to help us make time for such reflections during this period. But to do so requires some modification of the normal holiday madness. Simplify the gift giving, focus on helping those in need rather than family members who in many cases already have much more than they need. Don’t feel you have to accept every invitation for a social event. For you social activities make plans to have them after the day of the Nativity. Make them a true celebration of the coming of our Lord. Give priority to have some time alone and with family to reflect on this incredible gift God gave us in making His son flesh. Make time for daily prayers. Be quieter and wait with great anticipation of the Feast day.
Keep in mind that the true meaning of this season is the Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah came into the world and dwelt among men. He did this for our salvation so that we could become like Him.
“God is with us! Understand O nations and submit yourselves, for God is with us!” (Isaiah 8:9)