Archive for the ‘lectionary’ Category

An Altered Advent

December 11, 2013

Best Day Ever

My dear friends. For those who don’t already know, I need to tell you that my beloved husband, Garrison Doles, slipped peacefully from this world on December 2, enfolded in the love and presence of our family and the encompassing of the God who entrusted him to us. I don’t need to tell you that I am heartbroken beyond imagining to have lost not only my husband but my amazing partner and companion in ministry. I am also tremendously grateful for all the prayers that encompassed us as we kept vigil with Gary and that are continuing to sustain us in these days.

Over at The Painted Prayerbook, I recently posted a reflection that includes a brief remembrance and blessing that I wrote for the celebration of Gary’s life, which we held last Friday afternoon. You can find it here:

Beloved: A Blessing for Garrison Doles

Last year, Gary released a gorgeous CD of his original Christmas songs. It’s titled Songmaker’s Christmas and is such a beautiful companion for this season. You can download songs or the entire CD by clicking this image or title below:

Songmaker's Christmas

Songmaker’s Christmas

You can imagine this is not the Advent season we had planned. With keeping vigil with Gary in the hospital, navigating these days following his death, and also journeying through the online Illuminated Advent Retreat that Gary and I had planned to offer together, I’m not able to be present here at The Advent Door in the way I had hoped. But we’ve traveled through two complete cycles of the lectionary here, so you can find lots of already existing work! I have a number of reflections and images that I’ve created previously for the scripture readings that we’re visiting during this season. For the third Sunday of of Advent, you can find some of them by clicking the images or titles below.

I send you much gratitude and many blessings. May you know the presence of Christ our Light throughout these days.

When the Prison Bars Bled Light

Advent 3: When the Prison Bars Bled Light

The News in Prison

Door 16: The News in Prison

Another Name for Patience

Door 15: Another Name for Patience


Door 11: In Which We Get to Sing

To Zion with Singing

Door 10: Hitting the Highway

Christmas Day: Shines in the Darkness

December 25, 2012

Image: Shines in the Darkness © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Christmas Day, Years ABC: John 1.1-14

Throughout this season, Gary and I have been leading an online Advent retreat and have loved traveling through these days in the company of folks from around the world. This is the reflection we are sharing with them for Christmas Day.

When I think of my artistic ancestors—the creative people whose lives and work have inspired and informed my own—I trace my lineage back to the Middle Ages. My artful family tree includes the medieval monks and nuns who labored at their desks with paint and ink, working by hand to create sacred books: gospel-books, prayer books, Psalters. I think of scribes who traced each letter upon the vellum, artists who saturated pages with their pigments, so often adding the shimmering gold that would give rise to the name for such manuscripts: illuminated.

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Many illuminated manuscripts required months or years to create, involving what might strike us as a staggering amount of time and expense. We may wonder at why these books warranted such extravagance, when they could have been fashioned more simply. Yet for the artist and scribe, creating an illuminated manuscript often became a lavish act of devotion, a fitting response to the God who created us and came among us with such extravagant love.

What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.

I am continually enchanted and inspired by the artists and scribes who poured themselves out in creating these luminous books that became a form of prayer, of proclamation, of sacrament. These artful ancestors understood how a book could become what the Celtic tradition has called a thin place—a space where heaven and earth meet, and we recognize more clearly the presence of the God who is always present to us.

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

Although my work looks little like that of the medieval artists and scribes, their devotion inspires and, I pray, infuses the pages I create in paper and in cyberspace. In their illuminated intertwining of Word and image and light and prayer, I find an invitation and a challenge for my own creative work: that it may be a place of such intertwining, that it may be a space where heaven and earth meet, that it may be a way the Word  takes flesh in me and shines through me.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory . . .
full of grace and truth.

As we cross into Christmas Day, where do you see the Word taking flesh in this world? How does the Word take flesh in you, become light shining through you? Who are your sources of inspiration as you open yourself to this? Are you listening for where and how Christ might be seeking to take form in you, to bring life to you, to illuminate you?

This day, may Christ the Word speak anew in your life, and may Christ our Light illumine your way. Merry Christmas!

P.S. For a previous reflection for Christmas Day (including the Christmas blessing “How the Light Comes”), click the image or title below:

And the Darkness Did Not Overcome It

Christmas Day: How the Light Comes

[To use the image “Shines in the Darkness,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Advent 4: For Joy

December 20, 2012

Image: For Joy © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 4, Year C: Luke 1.39-45

“For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting,
the child in my womb leaped for joy.”

—Luke 1.44

For Joy

You can prepare
but still
it will come to you
by surprise

crossing through your doorway
calling your name in greeting
turning like a child
who quickens suddenly
within you

it will astonish you
how wide your heart
will open
in welcome

for the joy
that finds you
so ready
and still so

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below:

Advent 4: The Sanctuary They Make in Meeting

Last year I created a blessing for the Winter Solstice that has found its way into lots of Longest Night/Blue Christmas services. To visit this blessing, click this image or title:

Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night

[To use the image “For Joy,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Advent 3: With the Spirit and Fire

December 16, 2012

Image: With the Spirit and Fire © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 3, Year C: Luke 3.7-18

Nearly all my creative energy this week has gone toward the online retreat that Gary and I are leading during this Advent season. We’re having a wondrous time with the folks who are participating in the retreat from around the world. Although I wasn’t able to write a blog reflection this week, I do have a new image, and I hope, even so late in the week, it will offer a blessing for your Advent path.

I also have a previous reflection on this week’s gospel reading; click the image or title below.

Blessings to you in these Advent days, and may the Spirit enliven you and illumine your way.

Advent 3: Terrors and Wonders

[To use the image “With the Spirit and Fire,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Advent 2: Prepare

December 5, 2012

Image: Prepare © Jan L. 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


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

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.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below.

Advent 2: The Mystery of Approach

Since John the Baptist appears in the Advent lectionary each year—and more than once—there are a number of other reflections here that feature him. To find them, simply enter “John the Baptist” in the search bar near the top of this page.

[To use the image “Prepare,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Advent 1: Drawing Near

November 25, 2012

Drawing Near © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 1, Year C: Luke 21.25-36

Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
—Luke 21.28

Drawing Near
A Blessing to Begin Advent

It is difficult to see it from here,
I know,
but trust me when I say
this blessing is inscribed
on the horizon.
Is written on
that far point
you can hardly see.
Is etched into
a landscape
whose contours you cannot know
from here.
All you know
is that it calls you,
draws you,
pulls you toward
what you have perceived
only in pieces,
in fragments that came to you
in dreaming
or in prayer.

I cannot account for how,
as you draw near,
the blessing embedded in the horizon
begins to blossom
upon the soles of your feet,
shimmers in your two hands.
It is one of the mysteries
of the road,
how the blessing
you have traveled toward,
waited for,
ached for
suddenly appears
as if it had been with you
all this time,
as if it simply
needed to know
how far you were willing
to walk
to find the lines
that were traced upon you
before the day
that you were born.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click this image or the title below:

Advent 1: Practicing the Apocalypse

And if you don’t know about the online Advent retreat that Gary and I will be leading from December 1-29, please check it out by clicking the icon below. Folks have been signing up for the retreat from around the world; we would love for you to join us!

[To use the image “Drawing Near,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Entering Epiphany

January 5, 2012

Epiphany © Jan L. Richardson

With Advent always being such an intense time, it comes as a gift and a relief that Christmas is not over on December 25. Brief though it may be, with just twelve days, the Christmas season offers a lovely opportunity to linger with the Christmas story and to take a deep breath before diving into the year ahead.

Christmas ends, of course, with the celebration of Epiphany on January 6. It’s Epiphany Eve as I write this, and I wanted to offer this final post for this season of The Advent Door and wish you a blessed Epiphany. Thank you for journeying with me through Advent and Christmas this year. It is always a gift to have your company on the path through these days.

I would be delighted to continue to have your company as I return to my blog The Painted Prayerbook, where I’ll be offering new reflections and art throughout the coming year. I have a new post in celebration of Epiphany and hope you’ll visit; you can find it here:

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

There’s also a wonderful tradition, rooted in Ireland, of celebrating Epiphany as Women’s Christmas. In honor of the occasion, I’ve posted a reflection at my Sanctuary of Women blog. The reflection includes a link to a special mini-retreat that I’ve designed for you to use for Women’s Christmas—or whenever you’re in need of a break! You can download the retreat as a PDF (at no cost), and I’m happy for you to share it with friends. The retreat, which includes reflections and artwork, can be engaged in a single day or spread out over a number of days. You might select a reflection or two for conversation over a cuppa with friends on Women’s Christmas! Click the image or title below to visit the Women’s Christmas post.

Celebrating Women’s Christmas

Thank you again for walking through The Advent Door with me. I look forward to returning when Advent approaches again. Until then, I hope to cross paths with you at The Painted Prayerbook. Merry Epiphany to you, and a Happy New Year!

[To use the “Epiphany” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Christmas Day: How the Light Comes

December 21, 2011

And the Darkness Did Not Overcome It © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Christmas Day, Years ABC: John 1.1-14

I love how John tells it. His version of the Christmas story is absent of anything we can put into a manger scene—no baby Jesus, no Mary who dared to say yes to an archangel, no Joseph who risked believing in his dreams and allied himself with Mary and her child. No shepherds. No angels. No far-traveling, gift-bearing Magi wafting in on the fragrances of frankincense and myrrh.

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

Glory and grace and truth.

In his telling, John the Evangelist invokes John the Baptist, Jesus’ way-making cousin who haunts the season of Advent. Himself a pared-down figure—the wilderness having worn away anything that would have hindered him from his call—John the Baptist is utterly at home in John the Evangelist’s telling of the story that enchants with its poetic simplicity and beauty. The Baptist knows about the basics, knows about getting to the heart of things, knows what it means to divest ourselves of anything that hinders us from preparing a way for the Word and proclaiming its presence in our midst.

And so for this day, in the Spirit of John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, a simple blessing and a prayer: that we may tell the story, that we may testify to the light, that the Word may take flesh in us this day and in all the days to come.

How the Light Comes:
A Blessing for Christmas Day

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.

P.S. For previous reflections for Christmas Day, click the images or titles below:

Christmas Day: Witness of that Light

Tangled Up in You

Door 25: The Book of Beginnings

Christmas Day: An Illuminated Joy

[Thanks to Jenee Woodard for featuring the “And the Darkness Did Not Overcome It” image this week at The Text This Week. To use this image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Advent 3: Home with Rejoicing

December 11, 2011

Shall Come Home with Joy © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Psalms, Advent 3, Year B: Psalm 126

Visiting with friends a few weeks ago, on the edge of this season. Talking on the porch as the almost-Advent evening gathers around us. One among us speaks of the great storm he has been going through for some years. “I believe in the providence and care of God,” he tells us. “But if you could just pray that God would take his foot off my neck.”

All around us, there are reminders that for many—and perhaps for us, ourselves—this is a season in which joy can be elusive. Economic pressures, broken relationships, disasters, violence, illness, isolation: these do not abide by a holiday schedule. And though God does not will the brokenness, still I want to cry out, on behalf of those who suffer in this season, “How long, O Lord?”

And alongside this awareness, Sunday’s psalm sidles up, offering its vivid images of rejoicing, restoration, return. The psalmist remembers what God has done for God’s people: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,” he exults, “we were like those who dream…. The Lord has done great things for us, / and we rejoiced.” But then time shifts for the psalmist, his remembrance of restoration past becoming a prayer for rejoicing yet to come: “Restore our fortunes, O Lord,” he pleads. “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. / Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, / shall come home with shouts of joy, / carrying their sheaves” (NRSV).

Perhaps more than any liturgical season, Advent possesses the sort of already-but-not-yet quality that the writer evokes in this psalm. Even as we remember and celebrate the Christ who came to us, the season calls us also to anticipate his promised return. This can be a difficult tension to navigate, especially when it may seem that Christ left so much undone in his earthly life and is tarrying overlong in completing his work of restoration.

The Advent season does not seek to explain away or release God from culpability for coming up with a cosmic design that leaves so much to be desired. Advent is an invitation, however, to stretch ourselves toward God’s sense of time, to reach into that realm where God has already brought about the healing of the world. We will see this divine sense of time with particular clarity next week, when the lectionary gives us the Magnificat and we hear Mary sing of God’s redeeming work as if it has already taken place with completeness. These days beckon us to stand with those—such as Mary and the psalmist—who can sing of restoration that has already been accomplished, even as we, so immersed in chronological time, know it is still to come.

Advent urges us to push at the limits of linear time, to tug at the place where the “already” intersects with the “not yet.” One of the ways we do this is by seeking to discern how God is calling us to participate in bringing restoration into reality: to learn to look at the world through the eyes of a God who has already somehow, in some realm, made it whole, and then to look for how God is asking us to help bring about that wholeness now.

We lean into God’s sense of time also by following the psalmist’s example of rejoicing, which is about so much more than a sensation of happiness. The rejoicing that the psalmist writes of is not so much a natural disposition as it is a practice, a habit, a way of being that does not depend solely on external events. The rejoicing to which God invites us in Advent, and in every season, is a rejoicing that goes deeper than the often contrived cheer that the marketers try to sell us in this season. This rejoicing does not involve ignoring the pain that is present in the world. It means, rather, seeing the world as it is, in all its beauty and its brokenness. It means choosing to resist being overwhelmed by the brokenness; recognizing and celebrating the presence of beauty and relationship; and developing a capacity for hope and working toward what we hope for—and what God hopes for in and through us.

As we seek to do this, we need all the blessings we can get—and give. A blessing is a kind of prayer that calls upon the God who dwells both within and beyond time. It is an invocation and plea that God, who promises restoration in the fullness of time, will see fit to infuse this present time with that restoration and healing. When we receive a blessing, or offer one, we stand at that place where promise and reality intertwine, and a space of possibility opens itself to us.

As you continue to journey through the days of Advent, whether these days offer delight or difficulty or some measure of both, may God stir up in you a habit of rejoicing, and bless you to bless those who need encouragement in this season.

Blessing to Summon Rejoicing

When your weeping
has watered
the earth.

When the storm
has been long
and the night
and the season
of your sorrowing.

When you have seemed
an exile
from your life
lost in the far country
a long way from where
your comfort lies.

When the sound
of splintering
and fracture
haunts you.

When despair
attends you.

When lack.
When trouble.
When fear.
When pain.

When empty.
When lonely.
When too much
of what depletes you
and not enough
of what restores
and rests you.

Then let there be

Then let there be

Let there be
laughter in your mouth
and on your tongue
shouts of joy.

Let the seeds
soaked by tears
turn to grain,
to bread,
to feasting.

Let there be
coming home.

[To use the “Shall Come Home with Joy” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]

Advent 3: The Prayer Book of John the Baptist

December 8, 2011

Prayer Book of John the Baptist © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Advent 3, Year B: John 1.6-8, 19-28

The Prayer Book of John the Baptist

Is written on
locusts’ wings.

Is stained with
wild honey.

Is buckled by
baptismal waters.

Is mostly
pages of wilderness
where prayers are formed
not from what is present
but from what has been
worn away.

Is inscribed
with an ancient path.

Is waiting.

Is falling open
toward the light.

For the 2014 reflection on this passage, click the image or title below:

Testify to the Light
Advent 3: Testify to the Light

For a previous reflection on this passage, click this image or title:

Where I’m From

For a reflection on this Sunday’s reading from Isaiah, visit:

Raising the Ruins

[To use the “Prayer Book of John the Baptist” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Advent Door possible. Thank you!]