Advent 2: Blessing the Way

By Jan Richardson

Blessing the Way © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 2, Year B: Mark 1.1-8

To write this piece, I had to go for a walk, had to be in motion as I pondered Mark’s words about John the Baptist, this man who devoted his life to preparing a way. Up one street and down another, I thought about roads that I had taken. I remembered an enchanted afternoon spent with friends in rural Virginia, walking through the woods on a pathway that had been there since colonial times. I thought of the small stretch of the Appalachian Trail that I hiked one day, and of my brother who had traveled the entire length of the trail, nearly 2200 miles, the year before. I recalled occasions that I have navigated a labyrinth, tracing the ancient pattern that has provided a contemplative path for centuries.

In my vocation as an artist/writer/minister, I live constantly with the awareness that there are no maps for what I am doing; that I am making the path as I go, with all the wonders and challenges this brings. Yet Advent is a season that calls me to remember that even as I move across what seems like uncharted territory, there is a way that lies beneath the way that I am going. Others have traveled here ahead of me, each in their own fashion yet providing pieces that I can use: scraps of words, images, prayers, stories; fragments that help me to find my way and enable me to smooth the path a bit for others yet to come.

In some sense we are all creating the road as we go. Yet beneath this, undergirding this, is a path carved by those who have traveled here before us, who followed the God who called them to the journey, who gave themselves to preparing a way for the One who came into the world to walk with us.

What path are you traveling in this Advent season? What do you find along the way that can help you create the road as you go? Who has helped to fashion the path and has provided inspiration to walk it in your own manner? How might you prepare the way—and become part of the way—for the Christ who comes to us?

Blessing the Way

With every step
you take,
this blessing rises up
to meet you.

It has been waiting
long ages for you.

Look close
and you can see
the layers of it,

how it has been fashioned
by those who walked
this road before you,

how it has been created
of nothing but
their determination
and their dreaming,

how it has taken
its form
from an ancient hope
that drew them forward
and made a way for them
when no way could be

Look closer
and you will see
this blessing
is not finished,

that you are part
of the path
it is preparing,

that you are how
this blessing means
to be a voice
within the wilderness

and a welcome
for the way.

—Jan Richardson

2015 update: “Blessing the Way” appears in Jan’s new book Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. You can find the book here.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click the thumbnail or title below:

A Way in the Wilderness

Since John the Baptist appears in the Advent lectionary each year—and more than once—there are a number of reflections here that feature him. To find them, simply enter “John the Baptist” in the search bar near the top of this page.

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

10 Responses to “Advent 2: Blessing the Way”

  1. phyllis thomas Says:

    Beautiful and thoughtful (and active)as always. Such minimal image but so profound. You’re the best! Thanks for walking the path ahead and beside me and for the inspiration you provide to keep going. Do I detect some painted portion on the top. . . .perhaps using a roller? Whatever the technique it is exquisite! Thanks for your faithfulness.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Phyllis! (No, YOU’RE the best!) So grateful for your words and your artful support. The portion at the top was a happy bit of serendipity—a scrap left over from the edge of a painted paper that I had used in an earlier collage. That’s one of the things I love about collage—how a lost or leftover piece can resurface and become a door to something new.

      Blessings to you, and see you soon!

  2. Hilary Campbell Says:

    Finding the way to go feels particularly appropriate for me at the moment. A time of change and transition is approaching. Thank you as always for your pertinent questions and reflections and the lovely prayer of blessing on the way.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thanks so much, Hilary. I’m grateful for the gift of your words. I wish you many blessings as you navigate the approaching time of change and transition. May you and yours have a joyous Christmas, and may the coming year provide everything that you need.

  3. carol ballantine Says:

    This looks like a scene we put on the front of our Christmas card this year. We found a rutted trail in the snow just off the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. We captioned it “Wishing you a beautiful and interesting journey.” I love your poem.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Cool! Thank you, Carol. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas and beyond. May you have a beautiful and interesting journey!

  4. Laure Says:

    this waiting
    carving labyrinths
    from stone

    Advent ▪ 2011

    Thanking God for journey-women … like you.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Oh, Laure—this is gorgeous! It prompted one of those “I wish I had written this” moments for me. But I’m glad you did! Thank you for sharing it, and blessings to you in these days of waiting.

  5. Melynne Says:

    Jan, your example has given me the courage to make my own path, knowing that God has called me to it, even if it feels like others don’t understand it. Thank you!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Melynne! I am grateful for your path and your courage. Many blessings as you continue to make your own way. A wondrous Christmas to you and yours!

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