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Blessings to you as we begin. Advent 1: No Between. Your use of janrichardsonimages. Click here to subscribe. Make me to know your ways, O Lord ; teach me your paths. It was the second day of Advent when my husband Gary died, almost two years ago now.

A Season of Love

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?

The Expositor's Bible: The Psalms, Volume 1 by A. Maclaren--A Project Gutenberg eBook.

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. Go slow if you can. 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.

Picture Psalms: A Season of Comfort by Mal Austin (2008, Hardcover)

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. 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. A beautiful gift this Advent and Christmas.

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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. Advent 1: Drawing Near. This is also available as an art print. Thank you! Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Visiting with friends a few weeks ago, on the edge of this season.

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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. 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. The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. 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. 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. 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.

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 empty. When lonely. When too much of what depletes you and not enough of what restores and rests you. 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. You can find the book here. While the postings for this week are percolating, here are links to previous reflections on several of the lectionary texts for Advent 4 December Psalm depicts the streams that make glad the city of God. Isaiah and associate the term with the waters of paradise.

Isaiah , 21 envisions Zion and Jerusalem as a tent designating here the sanctuary that will not be moved and as the place of broad rivers and streams. Ezekiel to 14 may be seen as additional support to the idea that Old Testament writers used the images of trees and the streams of water to describe the righteous in the sanctuary, though it does not display the textual similarities with Psalm as Ezekiel does. The association of waters with paradise and the sanctuary has wide biblical support Gen.

The sanctuary is designated here as the place where the righteous are planted. The association of waters with paradise and the sanctuary has also wide extra-biblical support. In Mesopotamian texts, the tree and life-giving waters are placed in sanctuaries. The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, depicts a special cult tree erected on the Apsu, the watery abyss, in Eridu, the sanctuary of Enki. The imagery of a tree is undoubtedly prominent among sanctuary images. Parallels between Psalm and other related texts in the Psalter.

The Book of Psalms: Sleep with this on!