by David Browder, Rector of Saint Thomas’
Did you know that there has been a debate throughout the millennia of church history over which liturgical color is to be used during the season of Advent? Indeed there has been. Protestant churches have tended to favor blue over purple. Why? It goes back to the reason for Advent itself.
Advent means “coming” and, during this season, we wait for the coming of Jesus Christ. “Which coming?” you might ask (and I’m glad you did ask, you smart cookie). It’s a good question because Christians await two comings. We are waiting symbolically for the first coming–the one on Christmas morning when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1).
But there is another Advent, another coming of Jesus, with which we concern ourselves–and I intentionally use the word “concern”. This is because the second Advent will be the return of the Lord of Glory to judge the world and make all things new. After this Sunday’s services, our Gospel reading will have been from Matthew 25 for two Sundays in a row. Last Sunday, we heard Matthew recount Jesus’ teaching of the Sheep and the Goats. This Sunday, we will hear the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Both of these stories make us uncomfortable at the least–and maybe even make our hair stand on end.
God is not within our locus of control. In fact, we are the ones in His locus of control. We have no leverage with Him, having forsaken Him at the Fall (Genesis 3), and we simply wait for His answer to us, given that fact. In the Law, the Prophets, Wisdom, and Psalms, He told us He would answer.
And, He has answered. He answered in the first Advent: the eternal Word was born of a virgin. He was to live a completely obedient life on our behalf and then He was go to His death on a Roman cross for our sin. It all began in that manger in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago when the Lord of Life deigned to take on created flesh. It is here that hope inextricably ties the first Advent of Jesus to His second Advent: and blue is the liturgical color for hope (I’ll bet you never thought I would get around to it).
Because the first Advent happened, we can look forward to the second Advent in hope. Not in terror or in uncertainty. In hope. Life was difficult for the original hearers of Matthew’s Gospel. Both the religious world of Judaism and the secular world of the Romans rejected them and, in a lot of cases, persecuted them. They needed hope to survive. And you and I need hope to survive. What better object of hope than something true–the good news of a victory won on our behalf: Gospel truth?
We don’t have any blue stoles in my vestry so I won’t be in blue this Sunday–but why don’t you wear some blue this Advent?
“My!” someone might say, “but you are wearing a lot of blue these days.”
And you might answer, “Why, yes, I am. I wear blue to be reminded that in the midst of flood, societal upheaval, terrorism, and personal uncertainty, my hope isn’t based on the things of this world. My hope is based on the One who came to me in my distress and will come again to wipe every tear from my eyes as He makes all things new.”