Archive for the ‘lectionary’ Category

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.

Advent 1: The Vigil Kept for Us

November 27, 2016

Heart Coming HomeImage: Heart Coming Home © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 1, Year A: Matthew 24.36-44

Keep awake.
—Matthew 24.42

As Advent has approached once again, I have had vigils on my mind. Three years ago, as Advent began, we were nearing the end of the vigil we had kept for my husband following his fateful surgery. Gary died on the second day of Advent, forever altering the way I enter into this season of expectation.

When we have had an experience of waiting that ended in devastation instead of joy, when we have kept a vigil that drew us into grief instead of celebration, it can be difficult to know just how to navigate the call that lies at the heart of Advent: to wait, to watch, to wake.

This year, as Advent begins and I wonder about what it means to wait, I cannot shake the sense that there is a vigil being kept for me: that I am being waited for, that I am being watched over, that there is one who lingers at the edge of my awareness, breathing with me and blessing me as I move through these days.

Advent asks us to keep vigil for the Christ who comes to us anew in this season. It invites us to keep our face turned toward the horizon in hope. But Advent asks us also to open our hearts to the Christ who keeps vigil for us, the Christ who stands not on some distant horizon but, instead, is already with us, waiting for us to open our eyes to his presence that stays with us always.

As Advent begins, may you be blessed in your vigil: the one you keep, the one being kept for you. In that vigil, may you find your deepest welcome and know yourself at home. Peace.

Blessing the House of the Heart

If you could see
how this blessing
shimmers inside you,
you would never wonder
whether there will be
light enough,
time enough,
room enough for you.

If you could see
the way this blessing
has inscribed itself
on every wall
of your heart,
writing its shining line
across every doorway,
tracing the edge
of every window
and table
and hall—

if you could see this,
you would never question
where home is
or whether it has
a welcome for you.

This blessing wishes
to give you
a glimpse.
It will not tell you
it has been waiting.
It will not tell you
it has been keeping watch.
It would not
want you to know
just how long
it has been holding
this quiet vigil
for you.

It simply wants you
to see what it sees,
wants you to know
what it knows—
how this blessing
already blazes in you,
illuminating every corner
of your broken
and beautiful heart.

—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 “Heart Coming Home,” 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.

Christmas Day: Where the Light Begins

December 25, 2015

Where the Light BeginsImage: Where the Light Begins © 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

So I was having an Advent chat recently with my friend Fr. Rob Lord. The rector of a church that has been a place of solace for me in recent months, Fr. Rob is a soul of insight and grace. His office adjoins the church playground, and as we talked on that afternoon, an angel periodically bobbed up in the window, complete with a tinsel halo, cardboard wings, and, for a bit of flair, a Rudolph-red nose.

The angel appeared from time to time as Fr. Rob and I talked of such things as Advent and grief, the communion of saints, seasons and time and eternity. Our conversation turned to Saint John of the Cross, the medieval Spanish mystic known particularly for his stunning writings about the dark night of the soul.

God is radiantly illuminating us in ways we cannot see or feel or know, Fr. Rob said at one point. On that Advent afternoon, with the shimmering, cardboard-winged, Rudolph-nosed angel at play on the other side of the window, I tucked those words into my heart.

And now, writing this in the dark hours as Christmas Eve turns into Christmas Day, I pass Fr. Rob’s words along to you, in the company of this blessing. In these hours, in these days, though we cannot see or feel or know all the ways that God is radiantly illuminating us, may we open ourselves toward that light. May we open our eyes, our hands, our hearts to meet it. May we lean into the light that begins in the deepest dark, bearing itself into this world for us.

O my beloved friends. Merry Christmas!

Where the Light Begins
A Blessing for Christmas

Perhaps it does not begin.
Perhaps it is always.

Perhaps it takes
a lifetime
to open our eyes,
to learn to see
what has forever
shimmered in front of us—

the luminous line
of the map
in the dark

the vigil flame
in the house
of the heart

the love
so searing
we cannot keep
from singing,
from crying out
in testimony
and praise.

Perhaps this day
will be the mountain
over which
the dawn breaks.

Perhaps we
will turn our face
toward it,
toward what has been
always.

Perhaps
our eyes
will finally open
in ancient recognition,
willingly dazzled,
illuminated at last.

Perhaps this day
the light begins
in us.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

P.S. This Luminous Darkness: Friends, I have been so moved by the responses I’ve received to the article I recently shared here about traveling with grief in this season. I want to let you know that the article (“This Luminous Darkness: Searching for Solace in Advent and Christmas”) is now available as a PDF for ease of downloading and printing for yourself or sharing with others. Given that Christmas is a season (leading up to Epiphany on January 6) and not just a single day, we still have a rich opportunity to linger with the stories of this season and the treasures they hold. To download or print the PDF, click the image or link below:

Magnificat
This Luminous Darkness:
Searching for Solace in Advent and Christmas


New from Jan Richardson

CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

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

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Where the Light Begins,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Advent special! During this season, 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.

Christmas Eve: Light Has Shined

December 21, 2015

Those Who Walked in DarknessImage: Those Who Walked in Darkness © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures for Christmas Eve: Isaiah 9.2-7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
—Isaiah 9.2

Friends, as we approach this Christmas Eve, I want to share with you a reflection that I wrote for the first Christmas Eve after Gary died, along with a blessing from Circle of Grace. The reflection was part of the Illuminated Advent Retreat in 2013, which Gary and I were to lead together; he died just as the retreat was beginning. In that first Advent of astonishing loss, when I could hardly see the next step ahead of me, traveling with that retreat community was a tremendous gift and grace.

In this Christmas Eve reflection, I wrote about wanting to know the sense of arrival that Isaiah evokes in this passage. Two years along this grieving path, I still cannot say that I have that sense of arrival, but I do have a sense that I am entering into a new place. It is a place still marked by struggle and deep loss. But it is not without light, or astounding grace. For what shimmers along the way—for Gary’s life that continues to offer extraordinary light for the path, and for the light that you, my friends, bear on this road—I give great thanks.

For Christmas Eve

These words from Isaiah, which are often read on Christmas Eve, have long been among my favorite words of this season. This year they tug at me with particular insistence. There is such a sense of arrival in these words; a spirit of emerging, of entering into a new place after fierce struggle, long wandering, deep loss.

I want to be there, to know that sense of arrival. I want to know what it feels like to stand with those who have traveled through the deep darkness and have made it through, have emerged into the light. A great light, Isaiah calls it.

It is daunting to feel like that light is a long way off, that there are such large shadows across the path ahead of me. Yet there are glimpses and glimmers, hints and signs. The beautiful postcard that comes from Sarah today, assuring me, in large letters, You will be okay! The email from Janice, asking me, Do you need someone to weep with you? When you are ready to come for lunch, I’ll make you soup and tea and, yes, that cherry pie I promised you. The visit with Gary’s son tonight, and the solace of seeing Gary’s gifts at play in this remarkable young man.

Such moments remind me that even when our path is shadowed, Christ calls us in this season to look for what shimmers along the way. Though it may be some time before the path begins to look more brilliant to me, these moments of grace offer light enough: for this moment, this breath, this step. These luminous moments also invite me to remember that the season of Advent isn’t simply about waiting for the light to show up. More than this, Advent is about learning to see. Advent is a journey that asks us to open our eyes and look for the light that is already here, for the illumination that might already be in our midst in ways we have not been willing or ready to perceive.

This Christmas Eve, may we open our eyes to the luminous moments that come bearing the grace and love of Christ our Light. May we receive illumination enough for this step, this breath, this day.

How the Light Comes

I cannot tell you
how the light comes.

What I know
is that it is more ancient
than imagining.

That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.

That it loves
searching out
what is hidden,
what is lost,
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.

That it has a fondness
for the body,
for finding its way
toward flesh,
for tracing the edges
of form,
for shining forth
through the eye,
the hand,
the heart.

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.

And so
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still

to the blessed light
that comes.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace


New from Jan Richardson

CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

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


A Christmas Eve Gift:
Gary’s gorgeous song “For To Us a Child Will Be Born,” inspired in part by Isaiah 9.2-7, beautifully captures the mystery of the night that draws us across the threshold into Christmas. To listen, simply click the Play button on the audio player below. (For my email subscribers: if the audio player doesn’t appear in your email, click adventdoor.com to visit the blog and see the audio player.) The song is from Gary’s CD Songmaker’s Christmas.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Those Who Walked in Darkness,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Advent special! During this season, 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 4: A Blessing Called Sanctuary

December 14, 2015

The Sanctuary Between UsImage: The Sanctuary Between Us © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 4, Year C: Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

In those days Mary set out and went with haste
to a Judean town in the hill country,

where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.

—Luke 1.39-40

The archangel Gabriel has extended his astounding invitation. Mary has given her astonishing yes. Now she is alone—suddenly, entirely, dangerously alone—save for the unlikely child she now carries.

She flees: toward her kinswoman, toward refuge, toward sanctuary.

In the home of Elizabeth, in the company of her cousin who is herself pregnant in most unusual circumstances, Mary finds what she most needs. Elizabeth gathers and enfolds her. Welcomes her. Blesses her.

In response to Elizabeth’s blessing, Mary sings. And how she sings! She sings of a God who brings down the powerful, who lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry with good things. Strangely, wonderfully, Mary sings of a God who not only will do these things, but who has done these things. She sings as if God has already accomplished the redemption and restoration of the world.

O my friends, this is what a blessing has the power to do. The blessing that Elizabeth speaks and enacts through her words, her welcome, her gift of sanctuary: such a blessing has the power to help us, like Mary, speak the word we most need to offer. Such a blessing gives us a glimpse of the redemption that God, in God’s strange sense of time, has somehow already accomplished. Such a blessing stirs up in us the strength to participate with God in bringing about this redemption in this time, in this world.

Where will we go, like Mary, to find and receive such a blessing?

How will we open our heart, like Elizabeth, to offer it?

A Blessing Called Sanctuary

You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
entirely—
nothing of you
found foreign or strange,
nothing of your life
that you were asked
to leave behind
or to carry in silence
or in shame.

Tentative steps
became settling in,
leaning into the blessing
that enfolded you,
taking your place
in the circle
that stunned you
with its unimagined grace.

You began to breathe again,
to move without fear,
to speak with abandon
the words you carried
in your bones,
that echoed in your being.

You learned to sing.

But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger
in safety,
in stasis.

The time will come
when this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found—
to speak your word
into the world,
to tell what you have heard
with your own ears,
seen with your own eyes,
known in your own heart:

that you are beloved,
precious child of God,
beautiful to behold,*
and you are welcome
and more than welcome
here.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

*Thanks to the Rev. Janet Wolf and the congregation of Hobson United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, for the story in which these words—“beloved, precious child of God, and beautiful to behold”—were offered to help transform the life of a member of their community. You can read the story here.

JUST RELEASED!
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

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

Advent Bonus! One of Gary’s wondrous songs for Advent was inspired by the story of Mary and Elizabeth. It’s called “Celebrate the Coming of the Lord,” and I would love to share it with you. To listen, simply click the Play button on the audio player below. (For my email subscribers: if the audio player doesn’t appear in your email, click adventdoor.com to visit the blog and see the audio player.) The song is from Gary’s CD Songmaker’s Christmas.

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

For Joy
Advent 4: For Joy

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Sanctuary Between Us,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Advent special! During this season, 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: A Way Lit by Rejoicing

December 8, 2015

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
fierce.

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

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “As on a Day of Festival,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Advent special! During this season, 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 2: A Blessing for Preparing

November 29, 2015

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

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “A Road Runs Through It,” 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. Advent special: During this season, 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 1: A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark

November 25, 2015

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.