“He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1:53 (from the Magnificat)
This verse first caught my attention as I began to prepare for Advent, immersing myself in books I’ve read before, as well as new ones. I’ve been reading blogs (and yes, even Twitter), trying to choose ways to make this Advent unique and meaningful. I moved quickly, deftly, through resources, but something about this verse made me pause and consider: He has filled the hungry with good things. I thought about this for a moment. The word ‘good’ catches in my throat here. He is not just filling the hungry. He is filling the hungry with good things. I continue in my quest, promising to ponder this more later.
There’s a word for it, I think, when you hear or see something for the first time, and then you begin to notice it everywhere. That is what has happened to me with this verse. I’ve read the Magnificat over and over (at least once a year) and I’ve never noticed this little word before. Good things. I finally took the hint and looked up the Greek.
The transliterated word is Athagos. It is defined as: of good constitution or nature, good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy, excellent, distinguished.
While it is often translated as ‘good,’ it also makes an appearance as ‘generous,’ and several forms of kindness.
These are not the leftovers from some Heavenly banquet sent out to the hungry. This is a feast of delicious things, chosen and prepared especially.
There are many kinds of hunger. I know what it is to be starving (though not for food). I have found myself desperate for a few empty calories of love, acceptance, and belonging. I have crammed the french fries of the pity party, the gin and tonic by myself, the furtive text, deep into my mouth, barely pausing to chew.
I haven’t been filled. Not even close.
Perhaps it is because I always find myself writing about the food, from the deeply horrible to the deeply marvelous, that I find so much meaning in these words. I find that my Advent prayer is simple and short. I am hungry. Please fill me with good things.
I am asking audaciously, but without desperation. I am not asking for a stray half glass of wine, or a few breadcrumbs scavenged from the grown-up table. I am asking for nothing less than a meal. The sort that is served while we recline together, long into the night. I am asking to be filled like a cup of tea, or water pitcher, or decanter until I nearly spill over (and perhaps I will). I am asking to be filled with escargot and Oregon Pinot Noir, with coconut black tea tinged with vanilla, with popovers and halibut and beets and asparagus.
The french fries are stale and cold in their paper carton. The hamburger looks sad, it’s lettuce flat and wilted. The chocolate chips from the cookie give off a waxy shine. I bundle it all into the greasy bag and set it aside.
It is better to be hungry than to comfort myself with substitute food, a placeholder meal. He fills the hungry, you know, He fills them with good things.