Advent 1: A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark

By Jan Richardson

Grace in the DarkImage: Grace in the Dark © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Psalms, Advent 1, Year C: Psalm 25.1-10

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
—Psalm 25.4

It was the second day of Advent when my husband Gary died, almost two years ago now. In the time that has unfolded since then, never have I had such a keen sense of the ways that light and dark dwell together, and how grace imbues the places that are most laden with shadows and unfathomable mystery. The season of Advent impresses this upon us with such intention, weaving its exquisite tapestry of stories and images that tell us of how God makes a way toward us even—and especially—when we cannot find the way ourselves.

Here on the threshold of Advent, what does it mean for us to lean into this season once again, to give ourselves to these weeks that show us with such specificity and care that there is no place where God does not desire to meet us? How will we move through these days in a way that allows us to receive the gift that comes looking for us, that asks only that we open our hands, our eyes, our heart to the Love that knows our name?

Here at The Advent Door this year, I will be offering blessings from my just-released book, Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. As we enter into this season of mystery, it seems fitting to open with an Advent blessing that asks for protection and encompassing in the dark. May you know yourself enfolded by the grace that dwells in these Advent days. I am grateful to be traveling into this season with you.

A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark

Go slow
if you can.
Slower.
More slowly still.
Friendly dark
or fearsome,
this is no place
to break your neck
by rushing,
by running,
by crashing into
what you cannot see.

Then again,
it is true:
different darks
have different tasks,
and if you
have arrived here unawares,
if you have come
in peril
or in pain,
this might be no place
you should dawdle.

I do not know
what these shadows
ask of you,
what they might hold
that means you good
or ill.
It is not for me
to reckon
whether you should linger
or you should leave.

But this is what
I can ask for you:

That in the darkness
there be a blessing.
That in the shadows
there be a welcome.
That in the night
you be encompassed
by the Love that knows
your name.

—Jan Richardson

Circle of Grace

Within the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift this Advent and Christmas. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book

 

For a previous reflection on the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, click the image or title below.

Drawing Near
Advent 1: Drawing Near

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Grace in the Dark,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

16 Responses to “Advent 1: A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark”

  1. Vonda Says:

    Oh, the beauty your words evoke in my soul, Jan. Thank you.

  2. Steve Says:

    Soul grace overflows from you in poems and arts. Pain abates in time for me I know, and hope it wanes for you as you live through to eternal hope. God Bless you.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Steve, thank you! Your words and your thoughtfulness are a great blessing to me. Deep peace to you as Advent arrives.

  3. Tanda Ainsworth Says:

    Dear Jan,
    I am so excited to read your newest book. I am reading again your wonderful book “Night Visions” which has carried me through Advent for the last several years. Thank you, Dear One.`

    Your Blessing for Traveling in the Dark spoke to me at a deep level. I so love the concept of “go slow”. I believe that in going slow, or stillness, new life is born. God gave me these words a few days ago: In stillness “I am” is born. I am who God is creating me to be. Stillness opens me to the Divine Creator within me. I listen with the ears of my heart. Desire is born deep within me, God’s desire for me. It shimmers and awakens me from deep sleep.” I have been praying that I may enter stillness where new life is awakened and born with each breath, the breath of God.
    Blessings to you as you move through this Advent. You are in my prayers.
    In love and light,
    Tanda

  4. Karen Turner Says:

    Thank you for sharing once again. It’s like hearing from an old friend. Blessings to you!

  5. Lois Says:

    Such a lovely surprise to find you here this morning Jan. I was reconciling myself to moving through Advent without your accompaniment. Blessings on your new book and its launch and thank you once again for this surprise!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Lois, thank you! I’m grateful for the chance to travel through Advent with you here! Thanks so much for your words and for your blessings on the new book. Many blessings to you in these Advent days!

  6. Bev Says:

    Thank you Jan for the your words of comfort. Events beyond my control are reopening emotional hurts from the past that I hoped would never again be a part of my journey- and yet I stand at the brink of this Advent season knowing that those hurts are waiting for me in the weeks ahead. Thank you for reminding me that I am not stepping into this darkness alone. The Love that knows my name is already surrounding me and will guide me as I lean into this season of unknown.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Bev, thank you so much for your words. I’m sorry that events are reopening emotional hurts, and I am praying that in these Advent days, as you revisit these hurts, you are finding yourself accompanied by the Love that knows your name. I send many blessings and prayers for deep peace. May you find rich sustenance as you travel through this season.

  7. Bonnie Kilgore Says:

    “…the love that knows your name.” I’ve been waiting for a long time for some words that define my thoughts about God. Thank you, Jan.

  8. Roger Dowdy Says:

    Jan, thank you for witness & blessing in words and visual art, and for allowing us to journey with you…. to learn from you.

  9. Kathy Null Says:

    Your images and your words touch me. Twenty five years ago I was a young widow walking through the Dark and just ten years ago I spent an Advent season in vigil with my dying mother. Thank you

  10. Susan Says:

    I ordered your book the day it was released, and had already studied this particular blessing. Am still not out of my chrysalis/dark night of the soul triggered by shock and grief – three years now – but I guess it is not wise to put any time frame on when these might/could/should be over! God’s divine timing. Thank you for the words “how God makes a way toward us even—and especially—when we cannot find the way ourselves.” You are constantly my prayers and I appreciate how present Gary is with you in everything you do. With love, Susan

  11. Terrie Sternberg Says:

    Jan, these words are beautiful and blessed to be a blessing! Thank you for sharing your art and faith! God with you!

  12. Sue Mannshardt Says:

    “This is no place to break your neck by….” I read your blessing this morning two days after our adult daughter had surgery on the hand she, broke playing volleyball –a sport she’s been playing for nearly 25 years now…And yesterday as my husband and I were with her so her husband could return to work, she and her dad walked to the nearby bank…in a rush to take care of a banking issue….Mike had to return to the house, and drive back to pick her up — she’d done too much too soon…So your blessing is a reminder how important slowing down is…and how difficult it is for most of us…especially in this season…and then back to back mass shootings just days apart — such an explosive, violent and unnecessary intrusion into the already hectic holiday madness that keeps us from the stillness, and yet a horrible reminder of why we need God to break into our shadowed lives…Be still and know…

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