I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the liturgical color we use for Advent. What does it matter? Does our use of seasonal colors actually enhance our worship? Purple used to be used during Advent and Lent. Now we use blue for Advent and some form of plain burlap or sack cloth tan during Lent. The color can be a reflection of the spirit of the season and prompt us to think about the potential change the Spirit may be ready and waiting to accomplish in our lives.
Blue is associated with the robe typically pictured by artists with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Advent encourages devotion to the feminine and the period of Mary’s waiting during her pregnancy. The “Magnificat” is included in our worship, reminding us not to lose focus on the poor and suffering, as Mary’s song announcing Jesus’s life proclaims.
My night inspiration was not about these “religious” thoughts but drew my mind from the sublime to the ridiculous associations of daily life. Have you ever had the “Blue Plate Special” in your favorite diner? Perhaps Advent could invite a healthier diet. My brother-in-law from California is a professional drummer and loves the traditions of Jazz and Blues, musical expressions of alternative life styles, a more laid back pace of life and challenges of the human condition. Advent could invite some reflection about one’s overall life styles as we are all heavily influenced by consumerism and an underlying motivation of marketplace greed.
During basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, our flight marched in the sweltering Texas sun during “Noon Tunes,” to be reviewed by officers on the parade podium. The poor scratchy speaker system (on days without live music) blared out the Air Force song, “Up we go, into the wide blue yonder…” Wide blue yonder indeed! There is something restorative about taking time to study the expanse of interstellar space, or gazing at the stars and moon at night. Advent offers perspective. It can be an opportunity to look above and lift out sights and minds on the mysterious presence of God in our lives. Preoccupation with the wars and conflicts and disease all around can pull us down; Advent lifts us up.
I think they’re a thing of the past, but I remember the “Blue Light Specials” at early mega stores like K-Mart, where a flashing blue light would be attached to a shopping cart and focus on some bargain in one department. Customers would flock after the light like chickens scurrying to a feeding station. Advent is a reminder that we are a counter cultural community. Resisting the greed-based marketing that has taken over the season is a great challenge, especially if children are involved. Re-telling them the Biblical story and interpreting Jesus’s birth in terms of its meaning to us today is super important. It is an opportunity to teach about gifts: giving and receiving. “What do you want, and what did you get?” can spur deeply spiritual dialogue.
And back to the flashing blue light in K-Mart. Now I see it following me on a police cruiser as I cruise along at 70mph (a true confession) oblivious to the 45 mph speed limit on the connector between I-95 and Rt. 9, my route between Freedom and St. Pat’s. Advent invites slowing down, however you can restructure a busy life. Small steps will work best. I suppose we might install a flashing blue light on our sign board outside as a reminder? (I see Tom and Pete shaking their heads!)
And finally, some churches now offer a “Blue Christmas” celebration, honoring those grieving during a season increasingly filled with shallow cultural marketing and frivolity. A song lyric croons, “It’ll be a blue, blue Christmas without you…” Without faith in God’s mysterious advent among us, it can be. But the colors and words and prayers and music of our community and the encouragement and support we share, blue offers a deeper perspective of life. I think that is why I was awakened to write this reminder. It comes with my prayers and wishes to you, your family and friends for a blessed Advent and Christmas season. (And watch those speed signs!)
Shalom, Fr. Rick