I love Advent and Christmas! It’s the one time of the year when Christians remember the importance of liturgy, symbolism, ceremonies, feasting, sharing with the poor, and aesthetics in the home. I suppose dour Puritans just sit through the season, frowning at all the joviality, but for the rest of us, it’s a reminder of what really matters. Deep down, we know that high and important holidays call for a high liturgy. I dare say even the most contemporary, seeker-sensitive church does something different in their worship service to mark this time of year. And even though we loath the self-centered commercialism of it all, deep down we know that birth of a King should be honored with ceremonies, feasting, and decorations, and gift-giving. We know this at weddings, we know this at Christmas and Easter, but we forget it for the rest of the year.
As Douglas Wilson says about much of American worship these days: “The problem with contemporary worship music is not the kind of music it is, but rather the kind of occasion everyone seems to think the service is,” (Mother Kirk, pg. 130). We realize that Christmas and Easter are really holy-days, and so we treat them differently. But, the rest of the year, Sunday is just a time when we come to church to be entertained, to socialize, to hear an inspiring sermon, and get our spiritual “fix” for the week.
Now, to the main point. Caleb Roberts (check out the promising new blog he contributes to) asks: “I am fortunate enough to attend a PCA church that embraces the use of the colors but doesn’t seem to draw them in and establish them in the life and heartbeat, if you will, of the church. I am still learning, but is there not some significance to the assignment of various colors to the different periods of the Church Year? If so, what was the historical way in which the colors were woven into the fabric of the liturgy?”
For starters, The Voice has a good summary of how liturgical colors are used (both in the past, and currently). And this is a good place to make my main point–there is no fixed pattern for liturgical color use. There are general patterns, which have become standardized over time (just as there is no one liturgy that Christians have always followed, but there are liturgical patterns that have become standardized over time). We should be wary of adopting any color scheme, thinking that we are somehow returning to the practice of the ancient and universal church. It just ain’t so. This is, however, a useful area to explore, because it forces us to consider some deeper questions.