Advent 3: As on a Day of Festival

By Jan Richardson

As on a Day of Festival © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures: Zephaniah 3.14-20
Canticle: Isaiah 12.2-6
Reading from the Epistles: Philippians 4.4-7

From time to time, someone will look at a piece of my art and ask, “So what does it mean?” As if meaning were the main thing. Or as if it could mean only one thing.

I cannot tell you what this one means. I can tell you that as I worked on it in the night, the lamps on either side of my drafting table the only illumination in my apartment, I was thinking of these words, these Advent words, from the prophets and from Paul. I was thinking of with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation and of the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. I was thinking about these words rejoice and exult and sing; these words proclaim and praise.

I was thinking how Paul and the prophets do not tell us to be happy; they do not talk in terms of feelings; they do not talk about mood or about dispositions that are dependent on circumstances. I was thinking about how they call us to a rejoicing that is not an emotion but an action, a choice. I was thinking about all those verbs they use: those words that impel us to move and to choose and to resist stagnating in one place.

Which of course led me to thinking about Get Fuzzy, my favorite comic strip, where Bucky, the world’s most acerbic feline, says, “Anything can be a word if you just verbify it.”

I was thinking how when our joy is at an ebb, we need to start verbifying ourselves.

I can tell you I was thinking about how frequently we make the mistake of assuming that rejoicing depends on feeling happy, and about those for whom happiness is a stretch in this season. I was thinking of Marge Piercy’s poem “For Strong Women,” and the line where she writes, “Strength is not in her, but she/enacts it as wind fills a sail.” I was thinking of how joy is sometimes like this: not something we summon from inside ourselves but something that visits us. Calls to us. Asks us to open, to unfurl ourselves as it approaches. Like Mary in the presence of the angel, her yes poised to fall from her lips.

And I can tell you that on the scrap of  paper I had placed beneath the collage as I pieced it together, I penciled these words between the streaks of glue left behind:

Call it
the waters of salvation
or the garlands of gladness.

Call it
the grave-clothes
falling away
or call it the loosing
of the chains.

Call it
what binds us together:
fierce but
fragile but

Call it
he will rejoice over you
with gladness
call it
he will renew you
in his love
call it
he will exult over you
with loud singing
as on a day
of festival

Call it
the thin, thin place
where the veil
gives way.

Or call it this:
the path we make
when we go deep
and deeper still
into the dark
and look behind to see
the way has been lit
by our rejoicing.

In these Advent days, may you find a path of celebration. Blessings.

[To use the “As on a Day of Festival” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

7 Responses to “Advent 3: As on a Day of Festival”

  1. lovedintobeing Says:

    Such a moving post, Jan. Thank you for sharing your beautiful art as well as your beautiful words.


  2. Carolyn Sargent Says:

    I love everything about this post – thanks Jan!

  3. Pam Says:

    What stark contrast between this reflection on Advent 3 and the previous one on Advent 3 — and it’s in that contrast that I’m sitting right now as I prepare a sermon for tomorrow. Thanks Jan for not trying reconcile the gospel reading with the other lectionary readings appointed for tomorrow. Beautiful.

  4. Phyllis Thomas Says:

    One of my favorites; both the words and image. . . .they seem to flow almost without effort. I’ll have both staying in my memory for awhile to ponder and think about. Your gifts are so exquisite! I’m rejoicing with you, Jan.

  5. Maureen Says:

    Jan, how beautiful is “As on a Day of Festival”. And then your words. I want to read them again and again.

    (P.S. Abbey of the Arts is having a poetry party for which the theme is joy. Your poem speaks to that theme so beautifully.)

  6. snacks from the cruise buffet Says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful words and image.

  7. Jan Richardson Says:

    Paul + Carolyn + Pam + Phyllis + Maureen + Snacks:

    Thank you and bless you! Color me grateful. Peace to each of you.

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