LISTENING TO GOD’S COLORS
Taking a familiar seat each Sunday, a worshiper might easily take the bright vestments, altar clothes and banners for granted or not understand the real purpose. Yes, the decorations are pretty, but are important. The liturgical colors set the mood. The colors take us through the church year. Traditionally, five basic colors of a festive, penitential, and neutral nature are used in most congregations. Blue, purple, red, white, green and other colors might be added.
The church year begins with the season of Advent. Advent begins around early December, four weeks before Christmas. The color is blue. Blue symbolizes hope and anticipation. It helps us remember what we’re waiting for, hoping to come. Our Christian faith rests on the hope that Jesus will return, from that same blue sky He ascended long ago. Blue sometimes is used to talk about feeling down, maybe feeling something is missing.
Ash Wednesday begins the Lent season and the color is purple. A time of self-examination as believers prepare for the coming Passion of Jesus who suffered and died for our sins. It’s a time when the church thinks long and hard about life, its purposes, and the Lord. Purple points to our unworthiness before God. It is the color of repentance, confessing our sins to God and standing in awe of Jesus as He suffered and died for us.
The first half of the church year is called “the time of Christ”. It proclaims the life of Jesus, His ministry and miracles. It walks with Jesus’ suffering, His crucifixion and His resurrection. It tells of Jesus’ promise to return and His ascension into Heaven. Jesus’ triumph from the grave is the cause of our rejoicing. White reinforces joy of God’s victory over evil. White supports the celebration for the “great fifty days of Easter”.
Pentecost Sunday is the day of the New Testament Church being born and the color appropriately changes to red. Red is the power color, symbolizing the fire and power of the Holy Spirit. Red communicates the strength the Holy Spirit gives the people of God to call on the name of Jesus Christ for the mission of the church.
We have been reminded of the God of the Bible, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier; the One who makes all this life and our mission possible. It’s time to get to work in the life we’ve been given to live! The day after Pentecost Sunday begins the second half of the church year, “The season of the Church”. That is when green takes over. Green is a neutral color, but there is nothing colorless about our need to grow and mature as disciples of Jesus. This season of the “Green Meadow” is the lengthiest; time given to encourage living and growing in faith of God’s grace.
The symbolism behind the traditional colors is somewhat arbitrary and open to additional interpretations. The value of the color scheme rests in their purpose: to serve God’s worshiping community by assisting in communicating the holy faith from generation to generation. The beauty and symbolism of color in the church continues to serve us well.
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