Door 1: Crossing the Threshold

By Jan Richardson

Image: Crossing the Threshold © Jan Richardson

Here in Florida, the seasons are subtle. We do have them, really. I’m a native Floridian, several generations over, and I sometimes find myself quick to assert our seasonfulness to folks who claim we don’t have them. It’s just that, excepting occasional hurricanes, our seasons are…quiet. I can appreciate that some people need a bit more drama in their landscape. Me, I’m content having a wardrobe that doesn’t involve lots of wool and long underwear, and keeping a weather eye for the hints that a new season is in the works.

Still, the fact is that I have the windows open and am wearing shorts on this first night of December, which feels slightly odd even to me. I think maybe it’s this kind of wintry weather that first piqued my interest in the liturgical year. In the absence of having dramatic climatic clues that alert me to the changing of seasons, I find that attending to the liturgical calendar helps me know what time it is.

The Christian calendar tells us that we’re on the threshold of Advent, the season that beckons us to anticipate and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ. These weeks leading up to Christmas are a time to keep our eyes on the horizon: to watch, to wait, to keep vigil for the one who is to come. But these Advent days draw our eyes not only toward the future. This is a season of deep memory, a time when we are called to hear again the ancient stories of the God who has journeyed with us from the beginning and who, in the fullness of time, took on flesh and came to walk in this world with us.

Time can do strange things in this season, as we navigate our way through the call to both remember and anticipate, to give our attention both to the past and to the future. Perhaps, in the midst of this, the greatest challenge is to be present to these days, to find a footing that enables us to savor the season in its daily, hourly unfolding.

Like many folks, it’s right around Christmas Eve that I start thinking, Okay, now I’m ready to really begin Advent! Sometimes it seems that it’s only when I’m done with the doing of Christmas—when I’ve finished all the physical preparations—that I’m ready to attend to the internal preparations, to open my soul to the God who is ever waiting to be born there. Of course, it’s a little late to start Advent at that point. Though God is ever ready with grace, even (and perhaps especially) on Christmas Eve, I’m wondering what it would look like to do things a little differently this year.

I’ve found myself thinking lately about Advent calendars. I was flipping through a Bas Bleu catalog a couple weeks ago and came upon some cool Advent calendars they’re featuring. Depicting such places as Westminster Abbey, St. Petersburg Church, and the Vienna Christmas market, these calendars offer, like most such calendars, little doors to be pulled open one by one from December 1 to 25. It’s a way of marking time, of charting our passage deeper into this season of anticipation and giving us daily treats along the way.

This year, I’ve decided to create something of an online Advent calendar. I’m making a series of wee little collages, three by four inches, that I’m thinking of as doors into these days. I’ll be working on them as I reflect on the scriptures and stories that are part of the Advent landscape, particularly this year’s lectionary readings for the Sundays of Advent. It’s a tactile way of doing lectio divina (sacred reading); the collages are a way of entering the sacred texts, of crossing the threshold anew into the ancient stories of the birth of the Word who became flesh. Each day I’ll post a collage, and we’ll see what words are waiting behind the door.

Today I’ve been pondering the Psalm for the first Sunday of Advent (Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary). Psalm 122 is a festival psalm, a song lifted up by pilgrims as they enter Jerusalem and approach the Temple.

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem. (1, 2 NRSV)

It’s a song of crossing the threshold, of entering into a longed-for landscape. Crossing through the gates, arriving at the holy place, the pilgrims’ song becomes a prayer for peace:

“Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.” (7, 8 NRSV)

It’s a good blessing on this Advent Eve. It’s nearing midnight as I write this. “The night is far gone,” the apostle Paul writes to the Romans (in what happens to be the Epistle reading for tomorrow), “the day is near.” The day, and the door: into Advent, into a new season, into a new year.

Peace be within you.

[To use the image “Crossing the Threshold,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

4 Responses to “Door 1: Crossing the Threshold”

  1. Chapeltree Says:

    I’m counting the threshholds….thanks for the nice Advent blog. I’ll check it regularly.

  2. Lynn Jericho Says:

    Hello Jan,
    I walked through this wonderful Advent door and met you! Please go to and you will find my thoughts on Inner Advent. We seem to be spiritual sisters. And share the joys of Florida as I lived in Deerfield Beach from age 11-24 and graduated from FSU in 1969.
    I am thrilled to find your thoughts and your art. I just gave a talk in NYC Thursday night on Inner Advent and encouraged my audience to reflect on the last four seasons of the year – emptying the manger of their souls of the past to prepare for the birth of the new. I urged them to do a collage for what they experienced through each season. How I wish I could have shared your work with them.

    I will add links to your site and blog to my Inner Christmas website.

    Thank you for adding to my Advent Blessings.

  3. phyllis thomas Says:

    Jan, your Doors to Advent are just what I need this Season. Because of foot surgery recovery, I have lots of time to meditate and your beautiful work and words will add deeply to my Season. Thank you for your sacrifice in giving us your thoughts and keeping us in anticipation of Christ’s Coming. You’re so gifted!

  4. Sonia Solomonson Says:

    Jan, I have journeyed through Advent with you for so many years through your book, Night Visions, and I have used In Wisdom’s Path and Sacred Journeys more times than I can count for year-round meditations. Your words have always spoken deeply to my soul and awakened new thoughts and desires within me. And now I discovered your Website and blog. What gift! This will make my Advent journey even more wonderful. I have other friends who are reading Night Visions so we share the journey even in our separate homes and lives. Thank you for the gifts you bring to us and for always being so vulnerable and open through your art and writings. Advent blessings!

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