Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

Women’s Christmas Retreat 2018 – A Gift for You

January 5, 2018

Image: Wise Women Also Came © Jan Richardson

Friends, thank you so much for traveling through Advent and Christmas with me here at The Advent Door! I am grateful for the blessing of your company in this past season. With Epiphany close at hand, I’ll be returning soon to my blog at The Painted Prayerbook and would love for you to join me there.

I especially want to let you know about a gift I have for you! You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) as Women’s Christmas. Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas began as a day when the women set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need some time for respite and reflection, alone or with others. This year’s retreat has been released and is available now! The retreat is titled “The Path We Make by Dreaming” and includes readings, art, questions, and blessings. You can download it as a PDF. (And it’s not for women only!)

There is no cost for the retreat. It’s my Women’s Christmas gift to you, with such gratitude for your presence on my path. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas 2018: The Path We Make by Dreaming

I would love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

I pray that in this new year, you will find wondrous dreams to live into. I am so grateful for you and am sending many blessings your way.

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany Day! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Click here to subscribe.

[To use the Wise Women Also Came image or order it as a print, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day: The Light Shines

December 19, 2017

Image: And the Darkness Did Not Overcome It © Jan Richardson

Lectionary readings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
The lectionary offers a constellation of readings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which you can find here. At The Advent Door, our focus across the years has been on the readings from Isaiah 9, Luke, and John, and these are listed below.

Isaiah 9.2-7; Luke 2.1-14 (15-20); John 1.1-14

***

John pares away the Christmas story to its essence:
The Word. Light. Life. Dwelling among us. In the flesh.
Glory and grace and truth.

—from Christmas Day: How the Light Comes
The Advent Door, December 2011

Advent has taken us on an extraordinary journey through the stories and images this season offers us. Apocalypse and anticipation, wilderness and way-makers, rejoicing and ruin-raising, angels and annunciations and more: these days have been thick with wonders.

By the time Christmas Eve and Christmas Day arrive, it all comes down to this: God has come to us, has taken flesh in this world, has arrived as the light for which we have longed.

No matter how shadowed our road may have become, no matter how perilous or lonely or long, that is cause for celebration.

It has been—well, shall we say illuminating?—to me to retrace the path of that light as I’ve gathered together the reflections I have offered here for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day over the past decade. Particularly as I have followed the line of that luminous path through and beyond Gary’s death, I have had cause to remember how persistent, how stubborn, how full of grace that light is. How it accompanies us even when we cannot see it. How it begins in the beating of our heart, in the marrow of our bones, long before we can perceive it.

I have gathered up these Christmas Eve and Christmas Day reflections here for you. I offer them with blessings, with gratitude, and with prayers that Christ our Light will meet us in these days. O my friends, Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9.2-7

Christmas Eve: Light Has Shined
Christmas Eve: Longing for Light

Luke 2.1-14 (15-20)

Christmas Eve: A Circle of Quiet
Where the Foreign Meets the Familiar
Door 24: The Secret Room

John 1.1-14

Christmas Day: What Fire Comes to Sing in You
Christmas Day: Where the Light Begins
Christmas Day: Shines in the Darkness
Christmas Day: How the Light Comes
Christmas Day: An Illuminated Joy
Christmas Day: Witness of That Light
Tangled Up in You
Door 25: The Book of Beginnings

BLESSING FOR THE LONGEST NIGHT: A few years ago, I created a blessing for the Winter Solstice. I’ve loved hearing from folks who use it in their Longest Night/Blue Christmas services or share it with friends. To visit this blessing, click this image or the title below:


Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night

Using Jan’s artwork
To use the image “And the Darkness Did Not Overcome It,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. During Advent, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for use in worship for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click here to subscribe.

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.

Advent 4: The Hope That Lives

December 18, 2017

Image: Magnificat © Jan Richardson

Lectionary readings for Advent 4, Year B:
Luke 1.26-38; Luke 1.46b-55 or Psalm 89.1-4; 19-26
2 Samuel 7.1-11, 16; Romans 16.25-27

What must it have been like to walk a way she could hardly perceive,
while carrying within herself—in her heart and womb and bones—
a light unlike any the world had ever seen?

—from Advent 4: Gabriel and Mary
The Advent Door, December 2014

Revisiting the passages from Luke that appear in the readings for Advent 4, I have been struck all over again by how much the Christmas story hinges on hope. In this week’s readings, we see that hope in spades.

The hope that propels an angel to visit a young woman and offer her an outlandish invitation.

The hope that enables Mary to respond to the angel with an audacious yes.

The hope that inspires her to sing of the restoration of the world as if it has already happened.

The hope that comes to us as legacy, as gift, as blessing, as invitation.

As I have gathered up these reflections from the past decade at The Advent Door, I have been inspired and challenged once again by the hope that weaves through this week’s readings and throughout the Christmas story. The hope that lives in Gabriel, in Mary, and in every person we meet in the scriptures of this season: this hope is not about wishful thinking for a good result in a future time far removed from our present circumstances. Instead, hope is what comes to meet us here and now, in even the most painful present. Hope makes it possible for us to see the presence of God when it seems most difficult, to say yes to God when it seems most impossible, to sing when it seems most absurd, to dream of—and work for—a world restored when it seems most hopeless.

As we move through this final week of Advent, may this hope come to meet us, to live in us, to shine through us. Blessings to you!

Luke 1.26-38

Advent 4: Gabriel and Mary
Advent 4: An Awful and Wondrous Yes
Home for the Holidays
Door 20: Getting the Message

Luke 1.46b-55

Advent 3: The Art of Blessing
Door 11: In Which We Get to Sing
Door 14: Remembering Forward

P.S. Don’t miss Gary’s wondrous song “Gabriel and Mary,” which you’ll find in the reflection at Advent 4: Gabriel and Mary.

BLESSING FOR THE LONGEST NIGHT: A few years ago, I created a blessing for the Winter Solstice. I’ve loved hearing from folks who use it in their Longest Night/Blue Christmas services. To visit this blessing, click this image or the title below:


Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night

Using Jan’s artwork
To use the image “Magnificat,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. During Advent, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for use in worship for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click here to subscribe.

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.

Advent 3: Bearing the Light

December 11, 2017

Image: Testify to the Light  © Jan Richardson

Lectionary readings for Advent 3, Year B:
Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11Psalm 126 or Luke 1.46b-55;
1 Thessalonians 5.16-24John 1.6-8, 19-28

It matters that we hold the light for one another.
It matters that we bear witness to the Light that holds us all,
that we testify to this Light that shines its infinite love and mercy on us
across oceans, across borders, across time.

—from Advent 3: Testify to the Light
The Advent Door, December 2014

I love how John describes it in his gospel, writing of John the Baptist: He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. Looking back across the past four years since Gary’s death, and thinking of those who have borne the light for me, I can tell you it is no small thing to bear witness to the light when everything seems dark.

I love, too, that in this week’s lectionary readings, this passage from John’s Gospel appears in the company of passages that do their own testifying to the power of God to work in what seem like powerless places. Isaiah sings of this power that enables him to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners. The psalmist bears witness to this power that brings restoration and that promises us, Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. 1 Thessalonians testifies to the God who calls us to Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, even (and perhaps especially) when the circumstances hardly seem to warrant it. And in the alternate reading from Luke 1—well, one can hardly find a more eloquent testimony than the words Mary sings about the God who lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things.

The links below, gathered up from the past decade at The Advent Door, offer a collection of reflections on the light that finds its way into the unlikeliest places—the light that brings healing and release, the light that visits us with joy when we cannot imagine it, the light that meets each hunger, the light that causes us to testify to its presence in the deepest shadows. In this Advent week, may we bear this light for one another, and may Christ our Light go with us and illumine our way. Blessings!

John 1.6-8, 19-28

Advent 3: Testify to the Light
Advent 3: The Prayer Book of John the Baptist
Where I’m From

Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11

Raising the Ruins

Psalm 126

Advent 3: Home with Rejoicing

Luke 1.46b-55

For those who are using the text from Luke 1 this week: you can find reflections on this passage by doing a search on this site for “Magnificat.” (The search bar is in the upper right corner.) I’ll share links for reflections on this passage in my post for Advent 4, when the text appears among the primary lectionary readings.

Using Jan’s artwork
To use the image “Testify to the Light,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. During Advent, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for use in worship for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click here to subscribe.

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.

Advent 2: Dreaming the Road

December 4, 2017

Image: A Road Runs Through It © Jan Richardson

Lectionary readings for Advent 2, Year B:
Isaiah 40.1-11, Psalm 85.1-2, 8-13,
2 Peter 3.8-15a, Mark 1.1-8

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.

—from Advent 2: Blessing the Way
The Advent Door, December 2011

The season of Advent is marked by roads. Prepare the way of the Lord, we read in this week’s texts from Isaiah and Mark. Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps, the psalmist proclaims in Psalm 85. In 2 Peter, we find counsel for how to wait while Christ makes his way to us: Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace.

In this present time, the landscape we live in can seem utterly trackless. We may find it difficult to envision by what path Christ could enter this world, and daunting to imagine what road would finally lead to the healing and redemption of creation. Yet this is what Advent invites us to do: to lift our heads, to raise our eyes, to look toward the horizon and dream of the way by which Christ will come to us.

It is an astonishingly hopeful invitation.

In calling our eyes toward the horizon, Advent does not draw us away from the present or lull us into an avoidance of the world at hand. Advent invites us instead to stand in the thick of this life and open our heart to the road that Christ wants to make, not only for us but also in us and through us. Because when Christ comes, the horizon he appears on is not so distant, after all. The place where he shows up is always in our very midst.

The links below, gathered up from the past decade at The Advent Door, offer a collection of reflections on the road that Advent asks us to anticipate and to participate in creating. In this Advent week, I pray Christ will give us the courage to envision, to hope for, to dream, and to make ready the road by which he comes to us. Blessings to you!

Mark 1.1-8

Advent 2: Blessing the Way
A Way in the Wilderness

Related Reflections on the Gospel

Advent 2: A Blessing for Preparing
Advent 2: A Road Runs Through It
Advent 2: The Mystery of Approach
Door 9: Making Way

Isaiah 40.1-11

The Pilgrim’s Coat

Psalm 85.1-2, 8-13

Righteousness Seeking Peace for Friendship, Possible Relationship

2 Peter 3.8-15a

Advent 2: While You Are Waiting

Using Jan’s artwork
To use the image “A Road Runs Through It,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. During Advent, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for use in worship for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click here to subscribe.

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.

Advent 1: A Decade at The Advent Door

November 26, 2017

Image: Crossing the Threshold © Jan Richardson

Lectionary readings for Advent 1, Year B:
Isaiah 64.1-9Psalm 80.1-7, 17-191 Corinthians 1.3-9, Mark 13.24-37

This is a season of deep memory, a time when we are called
to hear again the ancient stories of the God
who has journeyed with us from the beginning
and who, in the fullness of time, took on flesh
and came to walk in this world with us.

—from Door 1: Crossing the Threshold
The Advent Door, December 1, 2007

Blessings to you as we begin Advent—again! This marks ten years since we first opened The Advent Door. It has been such a gift to travel toward Christmas with you from year to year.

The first time I opened The Advent Door, in 2007, I wrote a reflection and created a piece of art every day from December 1-25. That season, during which I was living in a small studio apartment, I wore a path between my desk and my drafting table as I spent most of each day writing and making art. It felt like I was making and living inside my own Advent calendar. It was a marvelous, nearly overwhelming experience of immersion in the sacred stories and images that this season gives to us.

I was already well acquainted with the season, having engaged Advent with words and images in books such as Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas. There was something about Advent 2007, though, that sent Advent deep into my bones, forever imprinting me with its message of how God comes to us in the deepest darkness, calling us to live with a hope that not only propels us into the future but, even more than this, deeply permeates the present, no matter what the present looks like for us.

I would need that message more than I ever anticipated when, on the second day of Advent in 2013, my husband died. In the searing loss, I can testify that the message of Advent still holds: with hope, with grace, with love, God takes flesh and meets us when we have become most hopeless, most broken, most lost.

With reflections and artwork spanning the past decade, The Advent Door has become something of a library for this season. As we move through Advent this year, I’ll gather up an armload of gifts from the library for you. Each week I’ll share links to previous reflections for the lectionary readings for the coming Sunday, along with reflections from other years that relate to that week’s readings. This won’t be an exhaustive list, and I invite you to wander around The Advent Door on your own as well, to see what you might find.

As it does every year, the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent gives us a version of the “little apocalypse,” in which we hear Jesus’ words about what will happen at the end of time. Though the images can be intense, ensuring that Advent always begins with a bang, the heart of Jesus’ message for this first Advent week is that the healing of creation is at hand. In a time when so much of the world we have known is coming to an end, the gospel reading for this Sunday comes to tell us that somehow, the presence of Christ is in each ending, and that he is at work, drawing near to us as he brings about the redemption of the world.

Stay awake, we hear Jesus say as we cross the threshold into Advent once again. In this season that is both ancient and new, may we stay awake, opening our eyes and hearts to what these weeks will hold as Christ draws near to us. I am grateful to be entering this season with you. Blessings to you as we begin.

Mark 13.24-37

Advent 1: Blessing When the World Is Ending
Advent 1: In Which We Stay Awake
Advent 1: Through the Door

Related Reflections on the Gospel

Advent 1: The Vigil Kept for Us
Advent 1: A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark
Advent 1: Drawing Near
Advent 1: Where Advent Begins
Advent 1: Practicing the Apocalypse

Isaiah 64.1-9

Advent 1: No Between

Psalm 80.1-7, 17-19

Advent 1: When Night Is Your Middle Name

1 Corinthians 1.3-9

Advent 1: I Spy with My Little Eye

P.S. If you’re not already a subscriber to The Advent Door, you can sign up to receive these blog posts in your email inbox during Advent and Christmas. To subscribe, enter your address in the “Subscribe by Email” box near the top of the right sidebar at The Advent Door, and click the “Subscribe” button below your email address.

Using Jan’s artwork
To use the image “Crossing the Threshold,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. During Advent, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for use in worship for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click here to subscribe.

Using Jan’s words
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this site 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.

Celebrating Epiphany and Women’s Christmas

January 5, 2017

Wise Women Also CameImage: Wise Women Also Came © Jan Richardson

Friends, thank you so much for traveling through Advent and Christmas with me here at The Advent Door! I am so grateful for the blessing of your company in this season.

With Epiphany close at hand, I’ve returned to my blog at The Painted Prayerbook and would love for you to join me there. I’ve recently posted a blessing for Epiphany; you can find it at Epiphany Day: Where the Map Begins.

I especially want to let you know about a gift I have for you! You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) as Women’s Christmas. Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas began as a day when the women set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need some time for respite and reflection, alone or with others. This year’s retreat is titled “Walking the Way of Hope” and includes readings, art, questions, and blessings. You can download it as a PDF.

There is no cost for the retreat. It’s my Women’s Christmas gift to you, with such gratitude for your presence on my path. (And it’s not for women only!) For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas 2017: Walking the Way of Hope

I would love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

In this new year, I pray that you will know the gift of hope, especially when it feels most elusive. I am so grateful for you and for the hope you provide for me. Deepest blessings to you.

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany, plus a few days! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Extended through January 9. Click Subscribe to sign up.

[To use the Wise Women Also Came image or order it as a print, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

Christmas Day: What Fire Comes to Sing in You

December 24, 2016

Image: In Reverence © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels for Christmas Day: John 1.1-14

The true light, which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.
—John 1.9

There is a door in our heart that opens onto eternity. This accounts for how the heart can grow so spacious; it does not reckon only with what we can see in front of us. Neither is it bound by linear time. Our heartbeat echoes with the hopes of those who have gone before us, the dreams of those who will come after us, and with the love of the One who holds us across time and beyond it.

When we celebrate, the door onto eternity opens. Whether in gladness or in sorrow, in difficulty or in ease, celebration is a living act of hope, a recognition that there is more at work than what we can see.

Christmas offers a time to revel in this fact. At the same time, it gives us a glimpse of that “more” that is continually at work on our behalf. Christmas invites us to remember how heaven and earth met in the person of Jesus, who did not merely condescend to take flesh but took delight in it, and who found cause for joy even in sorrow. In this season we remember that heaven and earth continue to meet as we welcome Christ and allow his story to live in us.

Eternity can be a lot to take in. So it comes to us most often in small ways, weaving through our everyday lives, showing up in celebrations we might not have even thought of as celebrations: lighting a candle, sharing a table, offering thanks, singing amidst the shadows—all those moments when hope takes flesh in us, a door in our heart swings open, and heaven and earth meet.

O my friends, may heaven and earth meet in us this day. Merry Christmas!

What Fire Comes to Sing in You
A Blessing

This blessing
had big ideas
about what it wanted
to say,
what it wanted you
to know,
to see.

This blessing wanted
to open your eyes
to the joy that lives
in such strange company
with sorrow—
wanted to make sure
to tell you,
lest you forget,
that no matter how long
it seems absent,
no matter how quiet
it becomes,
joy has never
been far from you,
holding a space
of celebration,
watching for you,
humming as it
keeps vigil.

But now that
it comes time
to speak it—
comes time to
lay these words
on your brow,
your beating heart—
all this blessing
can think to say is

Look—
your life
a candle,
this day
a match.
Strike it and see
what blazes,
what fire comes
to sing in you.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

The Cure for SorrowJUST RELEASED!

A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now. —from the Introduction

Jan’s much-anticipated new book enters with heartbreaking honesty into the rending that loss brings. It moves, too, into the unexpected shelters of solace and hope, inviting us to recognize the presence of love that, as she writes, is “sorrow’s most lasting cure.”

Order the Book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “In Reverence,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. During Advent, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up.

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.

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Advent 4: Blessing of Courage

December 18, 2016

Image: Gift of Courage © Jan Richardson

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid.”
—Matthew 1.20

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 4, Year A: Matthew 1.18-25

It’s a question that has pressed on me since Gary’s death. How do we say yes to a life we did not choose? Every morning I wake into a world I did not count on. Every day I have to figure out how to enter this life that has presented itself to me, so altered from what Gary and I had imagined.

The year I married Gary, I wrote a reflection about Joseph (Advent 4: The Annunciation to Joseph). I wrote about falling in love with a man who had a son, about choosing this son and this life, about loving this life I had not envisioned.

Now the story of Joseph comes around again—the story of this man who, in listening to his dreaming, learned to say yes to the life he had not expected. And his story compels me to ask myself again, now on this side of Gary’s dying, How do we say yes to a life we did not choose?

This yes is not something we can always summon on our own. It is not a response we can manufacture by our own strength of will. This yes depends on a constellation of gifts. Some of those gifts are ones we need to learn to ask for. Some of those gifts will find us without our even knowing we needed them.

I love how in Joseph’s dreaming, the angel comes not only with a compelling invitation, an annunciation designed especially for him, but also with a needed gift. Do not be afraid, the angel tells him. These are the same words the angel Gabriel told Mary in her own annunciation. Do not be afraid. In asking Joseph to say yes to what might seem an impossible life, the angel does not leave him to his own devices. Do not be afraid, the angel tells the dreaming man.

The angel comes bearing the gift of courage to Joseph. Courage to say yes to the life he had not envisioned. Courage to keep saying yes to this woman, this child, this God, this path that will take him far beyond anything he has ever imagined for himself. Courage that will keep coming as gift, as dream, as blessing for his way.

On this Advent day, how are you being invited to say yes to a life you did not choose? What fear do you need to let go of in order to offer this yes? How might it be to ask for the courage you need, and to open yourself to the ways this courage wants to meet you in your waking, your dreaming?

Blessing of Courage

I cannot say
where it lives,
only that it comes
to the heart
that is open,
to the heart
that asks,
to the heart
that does not turn away.

It can take practice,
days of tugging at
what keeps us bound,
seasons of pushing against
what keeps our dreaming
small.

When it arrives,
it might surprise you
by how quiet it is,
how it moves
with such grace
for possessing
such power.

But you will know it
by the strength
that rises from within you
to meet it,
by the release
of the knot
in the center of
your chest
that suddenly lets go.

You will recognize it
by how still
your fear becomes
as it loosens its grip,
perhaps never quite
leaving you,
but calmly turning
into joy
as you enter the life
that is finally
your own.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

The Cure for SorrowJUST RELEASED!

A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now. —from the Introduction

Jan’s much-anticipated new book enters with heartbreaking honesty into the rending that loss brings. It moves, too, into the unexpected shelters of solace and hope, inviting us to recognize the presence of love that, as she writes, is “sorrow’s most lasting cure.”

Order the Book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Gift of Courage,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. During Advent, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up.

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.

Advent 3: In Sorrow and Celebration

December 11, 2016

Image: The Desert in Advent © Jan Richardson

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom.
—Isaiah 35.1

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Advent 3: Isaiah 35.1-10

Yesterday we had a party to celebrate the release of my new book, The Cure for Sorrow.  In the midst of the celebration, I gave a reading. As I began, I took in the faces of those who had gathered: longtime friends, new acquaintances, people I was meeting for the first time that day. They were beautiful and wondrous and graced. I told them this was the real reason I wrote books: to be able to have a gathering like this, to be with all of them together in the same room.

I was joking only a little.

Following so close on the third anniversary of Gary’s death, it came as a particular grace to gather with these particular folks. We were there because of a book about grief. Yet in the midst of the sorrow we have each carried, there was the presence of joy, of hearts open to the ways that God leavens our grief with gladness.

We sometimes draw sharp distinctions between grief and joy, sorrow and celebration. This is understandable, given how loss lays waste to our hearts and alters the world we have known and loved. The season of Advent, however, challenges the notion that joy and sorrow live in separate realms, that we can have one or the other but never both at the same time.

In one of the readings for this week, we encounter Isaiah’s description of a creation rejoicing in its redemption. His vision is not just of a far-off future for which we have to wait; it is a vision of the life that God offers to us here and now.

This is what Christ came to show us, to embody in our midst. In our keenest sorrow, in our deepest darkness, Christ entered as joy enfleshed. He showed us that celebration is not a someday thing, a state of joyous completion that we cannot attain until life gets better. Rejoicing is what happens when, in the midst of the darkness that attends us, we open our hearts to the Christ who comes to us still. Celebration is what happens when we allow sorrow to have its say but refuse to let it have the final word.

In this season, what gives you cause for rejoicing?

Blessing the Desert

Ask me what
this blessing sounds like
and I will tell you
about the wind
that hollows everything
it finds.

I will tell you
about locusts
who chose this night
to offer their awful,
rasping song.

I will tell you
about rock faces
and how it sounds
when what was sturdy
and solid
suddenly shears away.

But give me long enough,
and I will tell you also
how beneath the wind,
a silence,

not of absence
or of agony
that leaves all speechless
and stricken
when it comes,
but of rest,
of dreaming,

of the seed
that knows its season

and the wordless
canticle of stars
that will not cease
their singing
even when we cannot bear
to hear.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow

The Cure for SorrowJUST RELEASED!

A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it gives us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now. —from the Introduction

Jan’s much-anticipated new book enters with heartbreaking honesty into the rending that loss brings. It moves, too, into the unexpected shelters of solace and hope, inviting us to recognize the presence of love that, as she writes, is “sorrow’s most lasting cure.”

Order the Book

 

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