Advent 2: A Blessing for Preparing

By Jan Richardson

A Road Runs Through ItImage: A Road Runs Through It © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 2, Year C: Luke 3.1-6

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”
—Luke 3.3-4

This is the first year in a while that I haven’t been preparing to lead an online retreat for Advent. (More about that decision, and finding “the next right thing,” here.) So here I am, at the beginning of Advent, suddenly wondering, What am I preparing for?

It’s not that there isn’t plenty to do; in fact, I’m working to resist feeling overwhelmed by all that’s asking for my attention. And the decision not to offer an Advent retreat this year was, in part, about making room for some new creative work that has been knocking at the door of my soul. I can’t help but wonder, though, how it will be to enter into the space where that creative work will take place—the space of the studio, the space of my heart that, in these past two years since Gary’s death, has been broken open and enlarged beyond imagining, widened with both grief and wonder.

I am not feeling terribly prepared for this season. And that, perhaps, is where the heart of the invitation lies for me this Advent. We sometimes fall so easily into thinking that preparing is something we do. To be sure, preparing is part of Advent’s invitation to us, as the season calls us to echo and embody the words of Luke and Isaiah, and “prepare the way of the Lord.”

But this Advent, as I look back on the path since Gary’s death (two years ago this December 2), I feel drawn to ask, How have I already been prepared? What way has been made within me, without my having been aware of it at the time? On this road that runs through the hollow of my heart, how is Christ walking toward me, even now?

And you? How might it be to look back on the past week, the past month, the past year and ask what way has already been made in you? What road runs through your heart even now, ready for Christ to enter?

Prepare
A Blessing for Advent

Strange how one word
will so hollow you out.
But this word
has been in the wilderness
for months.
Years.

This word is what remained
after everything else
was worn away
by sand and stone.
It is what withstood
the glaring of sun by day,
the weeping loneliness of
the moon at night.

Now it comes to you
racing out of the wild,
eyes blazing
and waving its arms,
its voice ragged with desert
but piercing and loud
as it speaks itself
again and again:

Prepare, prepare.

It may feel like
the word is leveling you,
emptying you
as it asks you
to give up
what you have known.

It is impolite
and hardly tame,
but when it falls
upon your lips
you will wonder
at the sweetness,

like honey
that finds its way
into the hunger
you had not known
was there.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Circle of GraceWithin 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

Book Celebration: If you’re in the Orlando vicinity on Saturday, December 5, from 2-4 PM, we’d love for you to join us for a gathering to celebrate the publication of Circle of Grace! It will be held at the fantastic White House (in their beautiful vertical concert hall) near downtown Orlando. You can find details in my latest newsletter here.

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

Preparing the Way
Advent 2: The Mystery of Approach

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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.

8 Responses to “Advent 2: A Blessing for Preparing”

  1. Linda Says:

    Thank you. Grace and peace to you as we walk into advent.

  2. Sarah Payne Says:

    Dear Jan-

    I just read your recent interview in Faith and Leadership. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. As a female UMC pastor, artist, and seminary student, I am deeply encouraged by your ministry. It is a joy to learn how God has engaged both your passion for faith and your artist’s heart.

    In your interview, you spoke about darkness and Advent, this is something on which I too have been dwelling. I have thought a lot about the Shepherds this past week. They are called out of a a field at night. Close to Bethlehem, its name when translated means the place of vigilance or place of nightwatch. They go in haste, leading their sheep through the darkness for almost a mile and a quarter. Guided by the star’s light they bring themselves and their sheep before the Jesus. They, too, traveled the darkness while also guiding the sheep to Jesus. Thank you for doing the same.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Sarah, thank you so much for your beautiful words. I’m struck by what you wrote about the shepherds and darkness, and how the shepherds guided the sheep while navigating the darkness.

      Sending much gratitude and many blessings to you in these Advent days!

  3. Cindy Says:

    Prepare…as I love doing before a trip. Anticipation and preparation greatly enhance the experience of travel, domestic as well as foreign. Advent is both preparation and a journey.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Cindy! I am grateful for your words. Sending many blessings to you in both the preparation and the journey that Advent brings.

  4. Bill Harrold Says:

    Thoughts on preparing during this time of year are making me empowered as I prepare to sell my home of only two years. The wonderful help of my daughter and son-in-law got the house ready to take pictures and all is well.
    They scrubbed and trimmed and oiled and polished. Perhaps is a bit like preparing for the change of having Christ our Savior coming daily to save us.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Bill, thanks so much for this connection between the preparing that Advent invites us to do, and preparing to sell your home. I’m so glad that your daughter and son-in-law have been able to help you in the preparing. I wish you many blessings, both as you prepare to sell your home and make a new home, and as you prepare for and welcome the coming of Christ. Thank you again!

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