Your Light Will Break Forth Like The Dawn

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Advent begins in the dark”? Essentially it’s a way of saying that the season of Advent is a time of consolidated anticipation. This means that Advent focuses our attention for hopefulness toward that evening long ago when the Savior of the world would be born, the dreadful day on Golgotha’s hill when that same Savior would go into the darkness of sin and be crucified, and finally the Last Day when the Lord returns and the world is judged.

Each of these points is one that bears hopefulness, but each also has the sense of a tinge of blindness. In a Law sense, the blindness is the sin nature. The Word of God is clear that without the recreating work of the Holy Spirit by the Gospel, we’re not able to wait because we don’t really want to wait. We’re not even the slightest bit interested in seeking the love that God is bringing. But that right there is a wonderful doorway for a Gospel transition. Shakespeare said it well. “Love sought is good, but giv’n unsought is better” (Twelfth Night, III, i, 170). We did not seek the Lord’s love, but He reached to us in Jesus and gave it anyway. When that message has its way with us, it changes the nature of the darkness we’re in—at least as far as the message of Advent is concerned. We’re in the darkness of anticipation, now, rather than sinful ignorance. We’re waiting for Christmas. We can’t see it yet, but we know it’s coming. We’re waiting for Holy Week. We’re not there yet, but we know it will arrive. We’re always watching for the Last Day. It hasn’t arrived yet. But still, “Your light will break forth like the dawn,” the Prophet Isaiah says of these things. He means to say that even as we are in the dark, each of these moments sits at the edge of arrival. Believers know this. We’re past midnight and the blackness of night is turning into day. As time is concerned, Christmas and Holy Week will be here soon enough. As far as the Last Day, Jesus said, “Be ready.” And so, by faith, Christians are ready.

I know I’ve mentioned to you before that I love the liturgical color blue that adorns the Lord’s house for Advent. It’s because of everything I mentioned already. The deep, dark blue that we use here at Our Savior is the perfect color for communicating this hopeful anticipation. Still, this is the last year in our three-year cycle for blue. We’ll return to using violet next year. Violet’s a good color, too. In fact, I often get razzed by fellow Lutherans because we’re using blue when violet is the more traditional color. Well, okay.

Anyway, no matter the liturgical color, my prayer for you is that the season of Advent will carry you in these wonderful theological currents. For the one who trusts in the merits of Jesus, each current ends in a good place. Each ends one brings us to the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross and the wonderful reward of eternal life given, whether that be when we die or if the Lord returns first in glory.

The Color of Advent

Advent is upon us, and with that, Christmas is just around the corner. Also, you probably noticed that we’re using the blue paraments again this year instead of the violet ones. We’ll probably do it again one more year and then switch back.

Violet is a great color for Advent, and it’s the more traditional one when it comes to LCMS congregations. When the guys in the confessional circles in which I swim begin to hassle me about it, I just start singing the Magnificat. I think it makes them itch. This is true because when folks see the blue paraments—especially Lutheran folks—sometimes they attribute the color to the Roman Catholic Church’s choices with regard to liturgical colors. I get that. Blue has sort of been hijacked to reference, among other things, adoration of the Virgin Mary. But if you were here in worship this past Sunday, then you know that’s not what we’re doing here by this selection. In fact, blue has been used by the church for a good long while. And one interesting fact is that since violet was the color of royalty, it was very expensive and harder to acquire by the poverty stricken Christian churches. Blue was more accessible. In a sense, it was a very pragmatic choice, and so naturally, it was incorporated.

But it wasn’t used without purpose. And as was preached yesterday, you’ll notice that the traditional blue of Advent isn’t the bright baby blue most folks associate with the Roman Catholic images of the blessed virgin mother of our Lord. Advent’s blue is a deep, dark blue. It is reminiscent of the deepest, clearest blue that can only be seen for those few moments just after the darkest part of the night and just before the sky changes and softens and begins to glow with the new sunrise. This midnight blue color symbolizes that while the light of dawn is coming, and in a sense, we are still in the dark, nevertheless, the rising sun is only moments away. Christ is coming—both at Christmas and at the Last Day.

In my opinion, the midnight blue does more to teach the two-fold heart of Advent than most other colors. That is, as long as you get the right color blue and you know why it’s the right color.

In the end, I think it’s grand that everything in the nave is designed to hone our senses and direct our attention to the One who has given His life that we would have life in His name. That’s pretty great. Even the color of the paraments plays a part in the proclamation of this wonderful drama revealed by the holy Word of God!