Advent 3: A Way Lit by Rejoicing

By Jan Richardson

As on a Day of FestivalImage: As on a Day of Festival © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Advent 3, Year C:
Zephaniah 3.14-20

He will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
—Zephaniah 3.17-18

Last Saturday, in the gorgeous concert hall at the Timucua Arts White House in Orlando, we had a party. Organized by my wondrous friend and editor Christianne Squires, the party was held ostensibly to celebrate the publication of my new book, Circle of Grace. Taking place, however, just three days after the second anniversary of Gary’s death, I can’t help but think, as I look back on it now, that some benevolent forces were conspiring to stir up a celebration in a time when I most needed it.

I gave a reading during the party, which was my first public talk since Gary’s death. During the reading, I found myself speaking of one of the mysteries of grief: how, if we let it, grief can widen our hearts beyond anything we ever imagined. I talked about how I had recently commented to a friend that I never knew the human heart could hold so many things at one time. And not just at one time, but in one place. It is wondrously strange, how in the deepest, sharpest grief, joy can come and inhabit the very same space. One does not negate the other. But in the mysterious physics of mourning, they abide together. Joy allows sorrow to have its say, but it does not let despair have the final word.

Advent is a season for remembering that the joy that makes its way toward us does not depend on mere happiness. Joy is made of stronger stuff than this. Joy is what comes when, in days that tempt us toward despair, we choose to celebrate—not in denial of the causes of despair, but in defiance. In hope. In delight. In gladness for the One who comes to sing for us and with us, ever renewing us in his love.

As on a Day of Festival

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.

—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


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

The Final Fire Is Love
Advent 3: Terrors and Wonders

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