Here we are on the doorstep of the Nativity Fast. We are at the beginning of our journey to the Holy Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ on Wednesday the 15th and it will last 40 days. We are given this opportunity to renew and deepen our life in Christ, to grow in our love for God and neighbor, and strengthen our commitment to living out the Gospel. Although this Fast is not as strict as the Great Fast, it is sometimes hard to follow because everyone wants to have Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, and all kinds of holiday foods and events. And this usually happens because we forget the true meaning of the Nativity of Christ. And that is that Christ was born into this world fully God and fully man to bring us out of the darkness of sin and show us the path to the heavenly kingdom. But not everyone wants to be on that path, some say they are too busy with their lives and are caught up in all the things the world has to offer, or as it says in the parable of the sower, they are choked by the cares of the world. Some say they are just fine in how they live and have no need to look at who they really are and to look at what God is offering them. And to be honest some think they are already there, but that is far from the true teaching of the church.
We sometimes hear the term for this fast as Advent fast, which is defined as the coming or arrival of something. This title refers to the coming of the Messiah foretold by the prophets and culminating in the miraculous virgin birth that we celebrate at the Nativity a few weeks from now. But it also refers to a second advent, or a coming—that of Christ God’s Second Coming when He will judge the living and the dead and gather all His faithful who know Him into His near presence. As it says in Matthew's Gospel, He will separate the sheep from the goats.
In the Orthodox Church, our Nativity Fast is just shy of six weeks long, it is 40 days. And while less strict in the observances than the great fast and basically a little more ‘joyous’ in tone, it still should be a time for reflection and preparation that helps us to more fully participate in what the Nativity of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, means for us. It's not about presents and decorative lights and jingle bells. It is about the birth of the Son of God Who comes into the world to show us the way to the Kingdom.