Fast and Feast

Amos 9:8–15

The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom,
 and I will destroy it from the face of the earth
 —except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,
says the Lord.
For lo, I will command,
 and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
 but no pebble shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
 who say, “Evil shall not overtake or meet us.”
On that day I will raise up
 the booth of David that is fallen,
and repair its breaches,
 and raise up its ruins,
 and rebuild it as in the days of old;
in order that they may possess the remnant of Edom
 and all the nations who are called by my name,
 says the Lord who does this.

The time is surely coming, says the Lord,
 when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps,
 and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
 and all the hills shall flow with it.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
 and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
 and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant them upon their land,
 and they shall never again be plucked up
 out of the land that I have given them,
says the Lord your God.

Fast and Feast

For the better part of Christian history, Advent has been seen and practiced as a season of fasting. Just as Lent is a period of preparation for Easter, so Advent was a fast before the feast of Christmas. It has even been called a “little Lent.” We have obviously lost hold of this pattern in our own culture, but the rhythm of this passage invites us back into it.

Yesterday’s passage predicted famine—not of food but of God’s Word. But here Amos assures us that this famine will not last forever. Feasting will return; our tables will be filled. Just as “the time is surely coming” for wandering and fasting, so “the time is surely coming” when wine will flow. God’s Word will not only be spoken. it will take on flesh and blood.

Such a mystery—Word of God made flesh—is so beyond our capacity to comprehend and control that it is indisputably “the Lord who does this,” not us. The Lord is clear: “I will restore the fortunes…I will plant them upon their land.” Restoration, joy, and fruitfulness come as a holy surprise in the midst of our fasting, a surprise to which we can only respond with gratitude. The Incarnation of God interrupts injustice, sorrow, and hopelessness to bring new life out of the ground.

The time is surely coming when we will fast.

The time is surely coming when we will feast.

by Rev. Nick Chambers