You see it everywhere
Red and Green
Christmas trees and lights
Santa and cookies
It is officially Christmas season
We have all heard it many times, “Are you in the Christmas spirit?”
But what does it mean to be in the “Christmas spirit”?
Christmas is the day we celebrate Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ’s birth, the fulfillment of the prophecies. His Incarnation is very important to us and we even use it as a way to identify ourselves as Christians. Tewahdo meaning “the Word became flesh” (Gospel of St. John 1: 14). In order to prepare ourselves for His birth, our Church calls out on all her faithful to fast for 43 days prior to the Nativity. This fasting season is also called the Fast of the Prophets or Tsome Nebiyat, in honor of the fasting done by the prophets in preparation for the Lord’s coming.
Fasting is a time of self-deprivation, so why would we fast during Christmas season? When we fast, we are humbling ourselves before the Lord and fasting from sin and feasting on activities that bring us closer to God such as prayer, reading the Bible and good works. The Bible teaches us that true fasting is also accompanied by charity and service.
Out of His concern for charity, the Lord said in Isaiah's prophecy:
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness … To let the oppressed go free … Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Is 58:6, 7).
Our Church fathers teach us the money we save by fasting for one meal should be used to feed those in need and help those facing hard times. During the age of martyrs and confessors, the Church used to preach that: If you have nothing to give to those in need, then fast and offer them your food. This season is a great time to get together as a Church community and to serve those in need in our community by helping out at local homeless shelter or organize clothes drive.
Throughout the Bible we are told of many of the prophets who truly desired and prayed that they would one day be able to see the Messiah. From Adam to Moses, from King David to Isaiah, from Jeremiah to Zechariah, all foretold and spoke about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. Before we read the Holy Gospel during the Divine Liturgy, the priest prays:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, who didst say to Thy holy disciples and Thy pure apostles: Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye see and have not seen them, and have desired to hear the things which ye hear and have not heard them, but you, blessed are your eyes that have seen and your ears that have heard. Do Thou make us also like them meet to hear and to do the word of Thy Holy Gospel through the prayer of the saints."
We, however unlike the holy prophets who desired to see the Lord in the flesh were able to live in the days of salvation. They prayed and fasted that for the day of their salvation, the day that God would come to set them free from the chains of death. During the time before our salvation before Christ’s birth and death, the only way to be forgiven was an offering of a sheep. We are granted a chance every day to pray, fast, and confess our sins to the Lord. We are granted the opportunity every Sunday and any time there is a Divine Liturgy service to meet and be made one with the Lord through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
How would you prepare yourselves if a someone you respected and honored was planning on stopping by your house? Anyone would do everything in their power to do what they needed to make sure that the person coming would be able to make themselves at home and be comfortable at your house.
We would make sure everything in the house is clean, not only clean but spotless. You would clean out every hidden spot and would get rid of all the stuff that causing clutter in your house.
Similarly, in order to prepare ourselves for our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ’s coming to Earth as God, how much more should we spiritually prepare ourselves? Let us ask ourselves, what’s filling my heart? What is hindering me from making Christ home in my heart? As Christians let us not get caught up in the idea that Christmas is about receiving rather than it is about giving. Let us truly have the Christmas spirit by inviting Christ into our hearts and serving those in need.
Spirituality of Fasting, Pope Shenouda III