…and the Stillness the Dancing: advent one reflection

Farm Church: An Abundant Table Community
Advent Reflections
Week One: Soil & Sacrament
Dear Friends of the Abundant Table Farm Church,
Welcome to Advent–a season of expectation and reflection!
Each week during Advent, we will be sending out three sets of reflection questions: one for adults, young adults, and children. These Advent Reflections are meant to enrich you personally and communally, as this is a time of preparing and cultivating the soil from which the Farm Church communities are growing.
We will discern as a group–seeking practices that connect us to the earth, to God, and to one another.  Please take the time and reflect with your families and friends.  What are the stories of ourselves?  What are the stories of our land? What are the stories of our faith calling us into in this time of preparation?
As we tend the soil of our communities, we ask you to breathe with these, sit with them, farm with them, teach with them, bee-keep with them, and eat with them.  Let the fruits of these experiences, from the thunder-claps to the tiny whispering sounds, guide and water you and the Farm Church Community and lead you to deepen your roots and spread your leaves.
If you would like to join our Farm Church Advent e-mail list to receive these reflections weekly, please e-mail: farmchurch@theabundanttable.org to sign up.
With the Spirit,
The Abundant Table Farm Church Team
(These reflections have been lovingly prepared by AT Episcopal Service Corps Alumna Sarah Holst (formerly Wurst)).
Adult Reflection: And the Stillness the Dancing 
Mark 13:24-30 
Jesus said to the disciples, “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.   
And then they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you hear these things taking place, you’ll know that he is near, at the very gates.”

Advent is a time of expectation.  It also coincides in the Northern Hemisphere with the time of year where daylight gets shorter and the nights get longer–the darkest time of year.  So many times, we keep awake during Advent counting down the days until Christmas, when the waiting is over and the celebration begins.  Similarly, we wait in the darkness of the natural season, until the solstice comes and we see the return of light and the lengthening of days.

It is easy to crave light in darkness, crave redemption in times of suffering.  Especially with the perspective of the events of the world this year, we are aware of the brokenness and suffering of our world.

It is good to long and pray for light, to pray for an end of oppression and violence, for love, and justice, and joy.  But, what if we also took Jesus at his word?  That in those moments when suffering has come, and it seems like all the world is shaken, that the presence of God is “at the very gates”?

This Advent, like Elijah, let us listen for the tiny whispering sound. What keeps us sustained in times of darkness?  How are periods of life with less light analogous to the rich darkness of good soil?  How do we experience dancing in the stillness?  What are the gifts and fruits that come from seasons of waiting, seasons of stillness?  How can you uplift darkness as well as lightness in one another in your communities of faith?

Young Adult Reflection: 

You will need: Clay or paper and drawing materials.
Sit down and think about a time when you felt darkness in your life.  This could be a time when you were anxious about an upcoming event and could not wait for whatever it was to happen. How did you feel in that time of waiting?  You could also think of an experience of loss, rejection, sadness or exhaustion.  Or, you could think about the way the winter makes you feel.  How does it make you feel to have the world be darker later in the morning and darker earlier in the evening?
Take a few minutes to sculpt or draw this experience.
Come back together and share what you made.  How did it feel to share your expression and experience with others?  What do you think about how we are community with one another when things are hard?  Do you feel the Spirit in dark times as well as in light times? 

Children’s Reflection 

You will need: A candle or flashlight.  Can be done inside or outside.

Have you noticed that it is getting darker sooner? Think back to summer.  Do you remember how it was lighter later into the night?  Now its starting to get dark at 4:00!  This is one of the ways we know it is Advent— the time of the year before Christmas.  
Do you like summer or winter better?  Do you remember the feeling of summer?  What do you remember about it?  The feeling of the sun on your skin?  The water at the beach?  The softness of the green grass? 
Did you know that we can soak in winter the same way?  And that God is in the winter and the darkness just as much as God as in the light of summer?  Are you ready to see if we can feel God in the dark?
Explain that you are either going to shut off the lights in the house or go out to the back yard and be with the silence of God in the darkness. Explain that sometimes God is in the tiniest of noises.  See what it is like to be quiet in the dark.
After a little bit (can be a very short amount of time), either turn on the light, a candle or a flashlight.
How did you feel when you were in the dark?  What did you notice? If you were scared, what made you feel more comfortable?  The fact that someone you love was out here with you?  Have you ever tried to feel God in the dark before?  What did you feel?
You are going to shut off the light again, this time, explain that the dark can hold a lot of dancing and happiness in it too!  If you have somewhere safe to do this, shut off the light again, and dance in the dark!  Make sure to notice the stars if you are outside.  Take time to really notice and celebrate the night world around you.
(photographs by Sarah Holst and Abundant Table Volunteer Shaina)

The lights are extinguished,

for the scene to be changed

With a hollow rumble of wings,

With a movement of darkness on the darkness,

And we know that the hills and the trees,

The distant panorama and the bold imposing façade

And all being rolled away-

I said to my soul, be still,

And wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;

Wait without love,

For love would be love of the wrong thing;

There is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope

Are all in the waiting.

So the darkness shall be the light,

And the stillness the dancing.

-T.S. Eliot

(from The Four Quartets:  East Coker)

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