December 2nd: Advent is Blue

In some traditions the color for Advent is purple. This is generally thought to be an older-version of the liturgical color wheel. When it was first formally instituted, Advent was a mirror to the liturgical season of Lent, and therefore that color purple (standing for “royalty” and “penitence”) made sense.

But things change. All things change. And as our conception of the season adjusted (more rightly so, I’d say) our practices changed, too. Whereas Lent is more of a “house cleaning,” Advent is a “house warming.” To reflect this theological and rhythmic shift, many shifted the color from purple to a deep blue, symbolizing expectation and preparation.

But I like this alternative coloring for another reason, too, and that is because, well, for some Advent is “blue.” It can be a tough time, especially in the wake of tragedy or heartache.

If it’s your first Christmas without a loved one, and in this pandemic that possibility is quite real, it’s a tough season. Hell, it’s tough even if it’s your tenth Christmas without that loved one.

If you struggle with fertility, the stories that weave their way through Advent can be a bit painful. Why does Elizabeth, in her old age, get pregnant while so many couples can’t? Why does Mary, who doesn’t even seem to want to be pregnant, miraculously conceive when so many people have trouble conceiving?

And can we talk about miscarriage? This wide-spread but secretive topic sits in so many hearts, compounding the trouble of the season.

It’s important at the outset here to be honest about the fact that, for many, Advent is blue.

And here’s the interesting truth: acknowledging that fact, whether you find yourself blue in this season or not, helps everyone. It’s amazing how, when we hug the cactus of grief, it doesn’t hurt as bad anymore.

For your Advent playlist, try on this blues song by one of my favorite bands, Over the Rhine, “All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue.” It’s not a sad song per se, but it sings a deep truth in that old blues tradition that carries reality for so many.

Weatherman says it’s miserable
But the snow is so beautiful
All I ever get for Christmas is blue

It would take a miracle
To get me out to a shopping mall
All I really want for Christmas is you…”

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