A Blue/Green/Red/White/Purple Christmas
What colors do you think of with Christmas?
We sing of a White Christmas – because it’s fun to sing of snow regardless of whether or not we enjoy it, and there is something about the soft purity of snow – a frozen baptism of grace to make the world glisten with wonder.
We garb in Red and Green. Evergreens giving testimony to life even in the harshest northern climates, and holly berries provide a contrasting pop of color in a world turned grey. Who doesn’t have a wonderfully garish Christmas sweater bathed in red and green and white?
But then, I think of a Blue Christmas. A reminder that we do not all gather with family for holidays – for warmth and fellowship and hope. For some, for many; this is a time to remember who isn’t sitting around the fire with us. Its time of heart-aching loneliness… winter depression sets in.
And then I come to purple. It’s the liturgical color of Advent (and also Lent and for this reason some traditions use blue during Advent). The purple is about royalty and penitence (preparation) and is wrapped up in the longing for the Messiah – the coming of God’s Kingdom.
I caught a different feel this year of the purple sense of waiting, longing, and hope. Advent is a time to look to the horizon with a sense that “over there” lies a hoped for reality. (What are you waiting for? For what do you long that will make this world a more hope-filled, wonder-lit world?) And this advent the congregation I serve is starting/re-starting a tradition of Hanging the Greens mixed with advent crafts and games and cookie baking and decorating so that tomorrow we can send out plates of cookies to people who need just a little bit of cheer. And as the happy hubbub of our gathering goes on I am suddenly reminded of the words of a dear friend of mine many years ago. It was one of those years when Christmas day was on a Sunday and many churches decided not to have worship telling their members it was a day to be with family. And she responded in a staff meeting: “But what about those for whom the congregation is their family?”
And her voice echoed out of the past for me today as we gathered as a congregational family to decorate our “house” and fill it with the warm smells of holiday yum. Our Advent waiting is meant to be charged with the very reality we wait for. We long for a time when there will be no more mourning or crying or tears at all. And I do not know that there can be such a thing – at least I cannot fathom how – but I do see how the very act of waiting for it makes it just a little bit real even now. We wait it into reality!
What we wait for forms us in the practice of longing for it. And as we long for a day of cosmic community charged with the grace and love of God-with-us, we sometimes make that more than a little bit true even now. And so I gather… with my family. And gather others into our family… and we send out loving prayers to yet others. Small bits of Kingdom presence here among us, even as we wait. And all that came into my mind as I participated in the otherwise forgettable practice of baking cookies and perplexedly trying to figure out the garland. But I don’t think that’s just in my head. Trivial goodness? Maybe. But maybe it’s the baby steps of the kingdom.
And so perhaps we do not have peace on earth and good-will towards all humanity just yet, but perhaps we also have just enough of the essence of that hope to turn our blue Christmas into purple, our grey days into white, our brown and dormant life-less husks of trees with empty arms bare offset with the eternally green evergreens reminding us that life is stronger than death, and that the light of hope burns strong in us, and the darkness did not – and will not – overcome it.
What color is your Advent season? Come purple it up with us, go purple it up for someone else. Lean into cosmic community a little more each day: and let the light of hope shine forth in you.