Advent Four: Community and Celebration

Dear Friends of the Abundant Table Farm Church,

 “When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the Kings and Princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with the flocks, then the work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal those broken in spirit,

To feed the hungry, to release the oppressed, to rebuild nations,

To bring peace among all peoples, to make a little music with the heart…

And to radiate the light of Christ, every day, in every way, in all we do and all we say.

Then, the work of Christmas begins.”

-Howard Thurman, adapted

I write this as the sun sets on the evening of Christmas Eve.  We are now entering the watershed moment between our season of waiting in darkness, and tomorrow when the world spills over with the light and celebration of Christmas.
This week, we explore the Abundant Table’s pillars of Celebration and Community.  In weekdays filled with getting our hands dirty with the work of justice and love, Sundays serve as a Sabbath for many of us.  We celebrate together by sharing good food, rejuvenating reflection and spiritual care. A counter-cultural weekly gathering where we slow to the world, affirm and lift up one another is the practice that gives many of us the strength to go on doing good work into the next week.
I recently listened to a On Being interview with Carrie Newcomer. In the interview, Carrie said, “Kindness is like the country cousin to love.  It sort of does the dishes when nobody asks it to.” I know that we are a community that does the dishes when no one asks.  This, I think, makes it all the more important to lift up seasons like the Christmas season that infuse us with hope, so we are able to go back out into the world and “radiate the light of Christ.”
With the Spirit,
The Abundant Table Farm Church Team
(These reflections have been lovingly prepared by AT Episcopal Service Corps Alumna Sarah Holst).

Everything is Waiting for You

by David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.




Adult Reflection: Being in Community
Opening Prayer: God of Eternal Light, thank you for blessing us with the coming of the longer days.  Give us the strength to spread the love of your Son now and throughout our lives.  Amen.
In the last days of this year’s Advent, reflect on where you have been in these last four weeks.  Take these lessons anew into your heart with an extra focus on community.  In the first week of Advent, we reflected on God’s presence in darkness as well as light.  I think we have all experienced how community comes together in hard times.  Often, we experience the love of God in hard times through the members of our communities.  How has community let you see times of darkness with new eyes?
In the second week we talked about Health and Wellness and how many aspects of a healthy lifestyle can be a type of prayer.  How do/have members of your community inspire you to have a more prayerful life and daily existence?
Last week, we remembered that our scripture is a story of liberation, for ourselves and those most in need.  How does your experience of community aide you in deepening in the story of our faith?
This week:  If you can, meditate on the following quote by Barbara Brown Taylor with a member of your community.  Read it out loud two or three times, maybe alternating who reads aloud.  Share how this quote speaks to you and how you intend to live it out in the Christmas Season.

Like Mary, our choices often boil down to yes or no: yes, I will live this life that is being held out to me, or no, I will not; yes, I will explore this unexpected turn of events, or no, I will not. If you do say yes, you can take part in a thrilling and dangerous scheme with no script and no guarantees. You can agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body.

Young Adult Reflection: A Bioregional Nativity Story

What is community?  Who is your neighbor?
John Muir, one of my heroes, was once walking in the woods when he came across a dead bear.  He marveled at this majestic creature of God and asked, “Does God’s grace have room for bears?”
Switching to a different story, this week you will hear, or perhaps see, the nativity story once or several times.  When you think about the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the manger, think about a character you’ve never focused on before.  Perhaps a sheep.
Take some time to re-write the nativity story as it applies to the place you live.  The Nativity probably took place in a cave.  Are their caves in your area?  Where would Jesus, Mary and Joseph had ended up if they were looking for a place to stay in your home?  An abandoned building?  A canyon?  Who would have come?  The shepherds were the most marginalized community at the time of Jesus’s birth– who are their equivalent where you live?  Farmworkers?  What sorts of animals would be there if not sheep, cows and camels?  Maybe your nativity is on the beach.  Maybe whales, dolphins and seagulls come to see Jesus in a beach cave.  Can you see the stars where you are? If there is too much light pollution, what guides the wise man to the Holy Family?
How does writing the story into your own context help you to understand how all of creation came to celebrate God becoming a human child?  How could you celebrate events in your life with a community that includes animals and places as well as people?

Children’s Reflection: Your Manger Birthday Party
What is community?  It’s kind of like having a bunch of really good friends who are there for you whether you are happy and sad!  These friends care deeply for you and help you be a good person who loves and helps others.  This is what God wants for us!
Have you ever had a birthday party or another kind of really fun party?  This is a celebration!  Who did you invite? What made it fun?
The Christmas story is a kind of celebration of community.  Think about who Jesus had at his first birthday party.  
Who did you think of?  I thought of: Mary and Joseph (his Mom and human Dad), shepherds, sheep….even the stars came to Jesus’ birthday party!  Did you ever think you could invite guests to your birthday party who aren’t human?  Jesus was friends with sheep and stars!  
Thinking of Jesus’ celebration guest list and make your own.  Who do you want to celebrate Christmas with?  (And, if you want, what are the guests that you are inviting special gifts?)  Make a list of 5.
My List
1.  Birds –  Their gift is their beautiful songs!
2. Trees – They are pretty and give us oxygen!
3. Dogs- They make us all happy.
4. My family- They make great food for me and love me.
5. The night air- Smells like Christmas and is a reminder of God’s love!
Farm Church: An Abundant Table Community

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