This morning, as I prepared for our breakfast ministry, I looked up the color of the candles in the Advent wreath. Now, I will admit that I am still learning about the various aspects of worship, especially when it comes to the seasons of the church calendar.
I discovered this morning that the colors of the candles of the Advent are purple because of ties between Advent and Lent. The color of the 3rd candle is pink to give a sense of joy to an otherwise dark and somber setting.
I also discovered that there are a variety of names for the meaning of the candles. I prefer hope, peace, joy, and love though there are other meanings as well. I used those four titles for an Advent reading that I prepared and posted back in 2005 (“The Candles of Advent”).
What names are used in the lighting of the Advent candles at your church or place of worship? Do you only do the lighting in the major service or is it part of other worship services as well?
If the colors of the candles for Advent are purple, how come we use blue?
Here is a more expanded explanation for the colors of the candles in Advent:
Purple is the traditional color for the season of Advent. Purple was the most costly dye in ancient times and was therefore used by kings to indicate their royal status. Purple also signifies the repentance of God’s people as they patiently await the arrival of their Lord.
The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This illustrates the important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection. To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent.
In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday (from the Latin word for “rejoice”). The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season. Its color is a mixture of Advent purple and Christmas white. It may also symbolize the color of early dawn.
In Protestant churches it is more common to use four red candles (reflecting their traditional use in Christmas decorations) because rose vestments and decorations are not commonly used in Protestant churches.
There has been a shift in the emphasis placed on Advent and this is reflected in the change of colors.
Except in the Eastern churches, the penitential aspect of the Season has been almost totally replaced by an emphasis on hope and anticipation.
In more recent times, some churches have adopted blue as the color for Advent. Blue represents hope, expectation, and heaven. Blue serves to distinguish Advent from Lent. Royal blue is sometimes used as a symbol of royalty; a bright blue is used to symbolize the night sky, the anticipation of the impending announcement of the King’s coming, or to symbolize the waters of Genesis 1, the beginning of a new creation. Some churches use blue violet to preserve the traditional use of purple while providing a visual distinction between the purple or red violet of Lent.