Blue, is the color used in the observance of a new church year.
Advent, a time of preparation, waiting and watching, communicates the message of hope. Blue is the color of the sky and helps convey this powerful message. Our Christian faith rests on the hope that Christ, who came in history assuming our flesh, will also return on the last day of time from that same blue sky he ascended long ago. (Acts 1:11)
Green, is by far the most common color seen during the year. Lutheran Worship calls for its use during the seasons of Epiphany (the season after Christmas) and Pentecost (the season after Easter). The first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 21), also known as Easter Sunday, determines the length of these two seasons.
The days of Epiphany may entail a total of, but not more than, eight Sundays. The season of Pentecost, on the other hand, can last from 22 to 28 Sundays. Green is the appointed color for all but a few of the Sundays during these seasons. Consequently, green may be used an average of six to eight months of any given liturgical year!
Epiphany’s message of Christ’s revelation to the Gentiles along with the season’s traditional emphasis on extending Christ’s kingdom through missions, calls for the use of green-the color symbolic of growth.
The Sundays following Pentecost, observed as “the time of the church,” share a somewhat similar theme as that of Epiphany. Affectionately called the season of the “green meadow,” no doubt due to the fact of green being the established color, these Sundays also emphasize the subject of growth. Green is a neutral color, but there is nothing colorless about our need to grow and mature as disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s why the “green meadow” time of the church year is so lengthy. Time must be given to encourage all worshipers to maintain their faith through the constant use of God’s means of grace.
Purple, is a somber color, in contrast to a festive one. It is appropriately used during Lent. The forty days of Lent, including the six Sundays that fall during this season, use this deep, rich color which has come to represent somberness and solemnity, penitence, and prayer.
Violet or purple was a very cherished and expensive color in the world Jesus lived. The dye used to make the color was painstakingly acquired by massaging the neck of a Mediterranean shell fish that secreted a special fluid. It was therefore afforded only by the rich and worn most exclusively by the royalty. Jesus, the king of the Jews, wore a purple robe only once. As the soldiers mocked and tormented him, the Scriptures record they placed on him a “purple garment” in order to ridicule him and belittle the claim that he was a king.
Therefore, purple is used during the season of Lent as a vivid reminder of the contempt and scorn he endured, and the subsequent sacrifice he made for our eternal salvation. Purple should remind all Christians of their daily need to humbly give attention to leading a life of repentance.
White is the color of purity and completeness. The theme for the “great fifty days” of Easter is supported by the use of white.
This color, used primarily during these Sundays, assists in bearing the message that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” Christ’s triumph from the grave on Easter is the cause for our rejoicing. His purity before his Father becomes our purity. White reinforces that message of joy.
In addition to its use during the Sundays of Easter, white is the appointed color for such festive Sundays as Christmas and its twelve days; Epiphany (Jan. 6) and the first Sunday following it, observed as the Baptism of Our Lord; the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, also known as Transfiguration Sunday; Holy Trinity Sunday; and twenty-one minor festivals and occasions listed on the church year calendar in Lutheran Worship. In all, white serves as the best festive color for the church year.
Red is a power color and is appropriate for use on Pentecost Sunday. On this day we remember the power and fire of “the Lord and Giver of Life,” who revealed himself as the promised one.
The color red communicates strength. Strength and power the Holy Spirit gives in order for God’s people to call on the name of Jesus Christ and share that powerful name with others.
There is no question that red is a compelling festive color. Consequently, it serves well as the traditional color for the heroic martyrs of the church. The Lutheran Worship church year calendar provides propers for sixteen martyr festivals and recommends red as the appropriate color. Their red blood shed in defense of the Gospel offers perpetual encouragement for God’s people to be resolute in living the faith.
Additional uses of red are Reformation Sunday and on such festive occasions as dedications, anniversaries of a congregation and its physical structure; festive days celebrating the office of the public ministry, such as ordination and installation.