There are many postings about the “proper” Advent color: PURPLE or BLUE? Anglicans, Episcopalians, and some Lutherans seem to be moving towards blue. Some people have strong feelings about their color choices with carefully-crafted historical or theological defenses. Like folktales and fairy tales, liturgy morphs to reflect the times and needs of people. So what if a little revisionist history pokes its way into our explanations?
Here are some of the explanations behind both color choices:
BLUE is the color of “hope, expectation, heaven, and the pre-dawn sky.” BLUE reminds us to “keep watch for the promised light of Christ to break over the horizon, changing night into day, darkness into light, and filling our lives and our world with a holy and righteous splendor.”* BLUE is also the color for Mary.
PURPLE is the color of royalty. PURPLE dye was expensive and only kings could afford it. Christ as King deserves to wear the color of royalty. PURPLE is also the color associated with penitence and repentance. Advent throughout earlier centuries was a time for self-examination and abstinence.
Advent, as preparation for welcoming and receiving Jesus, includes both hope & expectation AND self-examination & repentance. So hang a little purple; hang a little blue, if not literally then at least in your heart and in your mind’s eye. Pre-Christmas time can be overwhelming and depressing. On those days, focus your eyes on the BLUE. When you are overloading your car with presents and decorations and carping at everyone around you, focus on the PURPLE. Use of colors is not a scriptural command, but the colors are a visual reminder of the messages the Scriptures tell us.
BLUE “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NRSV)
PURPLE “In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near…“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:1-2, 7b-8 NRSV)
Maybe BLUE and PURPLE are just another Advent paradox.