Solace Is Your Job Now

By Jan Richardson

Image: The Luminous Dark © Jan Richardson

The words came to me sometime after Gary died:

Solace is your job now.

In the morass of early grief, the words brought a measure of relief. I knew that engaging the search for solace as my job—as my vocation and call at this place in my path—was something I could do, something that would help me move beyond the helplessness that grief can induce.

I knew the only way to find solace was to go into the grief: to be present to it, to listen to it, to allow it become a space where God would speak a new word into my life.

Spending time writing and being in the studio are two of the primary ways I have entered into the grief and begun to find the life that is waiting there. In ways I could not have anticipated at the time of Gary’s death, my journey with grief has reshaped my creative work. It’s resulted in projects such as my book The Cure for Sorrow, which was released last fall, and a new book coming out next year titled Sparrow: A Book of Life and Death and Life.

Although my work these days is less tied to the liturgical seasons, I continue to find places of deep resonance between my emerging work and the rhythms of the sacred year. I am especially mindful of this as we prepare to enter into this new Advent season.

Gary died at the beginning of Advent, so this season holds some particular sorrows. Yet I have learned that Advent is a season custom-made for experiencing how Christ meets us in the places that are most shadowed, most hopeless, most uncertain, most fearful. The trappings that have become associated with this season can make it difficult for us to see this. Yet beyond and beneath those trappings is the wondrous truth that lies at the heart of Advent and Christmas: that the Word became flesh and comes to us still as life, as light, as fierce love that does not abandon us in the darkest times.

The gifts of this season are beautifully and powerfully personal, but they are never just for us alone. The Word comes to us and takes flesh in us for the life of the world. After Gary’s death, when those words came to tell me Solace is your job now, I knew this was not an invitation to seek solace only for my own self. Solace is not solitary: when it comes, it is for sharing.

That’s what I want to do as we approach Advent: to share some solace with you, to offer some gifts that I hope will lend grace to your path through the coming season. A new printing of Night Visions, a reflection on the search for solace in Advent and Christmas, and more: in the brief sections below, you can find these gifts that come from my heart, for yours.

As Advent begins, I am holding you in prayer and carrying deep gratitude for your company on this path. In the coming season, may Christ our Light meet you with the gifts you most need, and may these gifts take flesh in you for the life of the world. A blessed Advent to you!

NIGHT VISIONS, ANEW: We have a shiny new printing of Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas ready for you! I love hearing from folks who return to this book each year, and from those who have received it as a gift from a friend. Find the book here.

A GIFT OF SOLACE: After Gary’s death, I wrote a reflection about carrying sorrow in the Advent season. Born of my search for a resource that goes beyond “managing your grief during the holidays,” the article draws deeply from the treasures Advent offers in its stories and images. If you are traveling through this season in grief, or know someone who is, this is for you. You can find it here as a downloadable PDF: This Luminous Darkness: Searching for Solace in Advent and Christmas.

THROUGH THE DOOR: My Advent e-book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas invites us into a realm that shimmers with mystery and imagination. Like an Advent calendar, each day opens a new door that leads us deeper into this sacred season. The book includes 26 original images in color and is available in a Kindle version here. If you don’t have a Kindle e-reader, you can download a Kindle app to your computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.

IMAGES ONLINE: Jan Richardson Images makes my artwork available for use in worship, education, and related settings. During Advent, we’re offering a festive discount on subscriptions and renewals. Our special Advent rate is $125 (regularly $165). Single images are always available as well. The site offers many images for Advent, Christmas, and beyond. To subscribe, click here. You can also order any of the images as an art print!

CONNECTING: I have an author page on Facebook and would love to connect with you there! Give the page a like and it will bring my writing and art your way. You can find the page here: Jan Richardson.

Again, blessings to you as Advent draws near.

8 Responses to “Solace Is Your Job Now”

  1. judith King Says:

    And Blessings of Advent also to you Jan. Sweet and bitter memories of the time of year I am sure. But thank you for plumbing the depths of your grief and retrieving from the dank dark such beauty and wonder and grace.

  2. Ann Fontaine Says:

    I love Night Visions — and read it every Advent and Christmas.

  3. Erica Scott Says:

    Jan, your story holds treasures of darkness which resonate deeply in my heart. Thank you for the gifts you are called to share. As we journey together, may you know afresh the blessings within the mystery of God’s love.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Erica, thank you! So grateful for your words. I wish you many blessings in these Advent days. May you have a wondrous season.

  4. Aine Says:

    What a kind compassionate way to view our times of struggle, as our “job” for that time. I am recovering from Late Stage Lyme Disease, and when I get down on myself or frustrated by what I can’t do just yet, my husband reminds me, “Your job right now is healing.” I can’t say I always let it get through to me as it could, but hey, I’m a work in progress.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Aine, thank you! I’m so sorry you’ve been having to deal with this disease, and so glad you have someone to tell you, “Your job right now is healing.” Powerful words. I wish you many blessings in the healing. I can appreciate being a work in progress! Thank you again.

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