Christmas is a season of bold colors, bright and shiny colors that announce a time for celebration and good cheer. Our churches are full of bright gold and brilliant white shouting with joy that Jesus is born, that the one who is Holy, Pure and Untouchable has entered into the profane, the dirty, and the everyday messiness of our world and our lives. Bright gold and brilliant white declaring an extraordinary event and celebration.
Before Christmas Day with its audacious gold and white, we have the season of Advent. Advent’s colors are purple and blue, it is a season of hopeful anticipation and intentional preparation. It is not the time for brilliant white and gold, it is not the time for pure celebration like Christmas. Blues and purples are moody and complex, the color of stormy and calm skies. Blue is not particularly cheerful, but is is hopeful and life sustaining. It is the color used to portray water and sky; blue is fluid, strong and deep. Purple is a little less buoyant than blue, it has more grey and night in it. Purple is complex and rare. Purple is the color used during Lent, a time of reflection and repentance (saying sorry and changing unhealthy patterns).
Blues and purples reflect the complexity of Advent where the theme is one of two fold anticipation. It is a time when we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Christmas is coming, family and friends gather, celebrate, share gifts and good cheer. In Advent we prepare for a great big, world wide party for Jesus, because of Jesus.
The other side to Advent is less cheerful and has a more somber feel. It is a time of persistent (even obstinate) hope. It is a time to cling to the promise that even when night, shadow and darkness abound the light shines brighter. In other words, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5). It is why we decorate our homes with bright lights in the cold and dark of December - it is a bold statement of persistent hope and faith.
During Advent we acknowledge that the world is not well, the day are getting shorter and the nights longer and colder. We long for peace and wholeness, for hope and light and joy. We remember the hungry, the poor, the lost and the grieving. In short, we cry out for God to act, to restore justice and peace, mercy and kindness. We wait for Jesus to come, to bring in the new heaven and earth promised so long ago. Jesus will come again and until that time we live our lives with persistent hope, love and faithfulness.
Christmas is meant to be pure joy and celebration with no time to think or ruminate about the complexities of life - about what could be or should be or once was. Christmas with its pure gold and bright white is meant to simply be a birthday party for Jesus. Advent, on the other hand, allows for the complexities both difficult and deep. Amidst the purples and blues of Advent we persistently cling to the Light even when it feels like the shadows are overcoming us.