What’s up with all these Colors?

Hello Geeseytown and Newry Lutheran Parish I hope this finds you all well....

I have been asked by several people in our parish why we keep changing the colors of the paraments and banners in the sanctuary.  I have had several good conversations with individuals about the significance of the colors of the church year and how they help mark the transitions between different seasons of the church.  After the third conversation I thought it would be wise to write something up here, I am also hoping to put together a bulletin insert with this information in the near future.


With that said, we have all noticed that at certain intervals the paraments on the alter and pulpit, and the pastor’s vestments change color.  You will also notice that barring a miscommunication, these paraments and vestments are the same color.  The reason that these color changes happen is because the five main colors of the church – White, Blue, Green, Purple, and Red – each represent specific seasons of the church and specific ideas within the church.  Therefore, when we reach new seasons or times of the church the color changes.  What I want to address here is what these colors represent and how their presence and our understanding of what they communicate can deepen our understanding of and hopefully our experience of worship.


WHITE* – is the color which represents THE VICTORY OF GOD.  It represents and reminds us of the Resurrection.  It is the color which represents Jesus Christ and his ultimate victory over sin, death, and the devil and how he has brought us into his resurrected life.  Therefore this is the color of the EASTER season and the CHRISTMAS season.  These are times when we celebrate that God is here and what God has done in Christ Jesus.   Also this color is used for those specific celebrations which point to the resurrection and the kingship of Christ.  So white is the color of Christ the King Sunday, Holy Cross Day, All Saint’s Sunday, Epiphany, etc.  These are days which point to what Jesus Christ has accomplished and that he has brought us into his resurrected life.


This is also the reason that White is the color we bring out for our funerals.  Because though we say goodbye to our loved one we know that they have had the promise of eternal life fulfilled as they have been received, at death, into the arms of Jesus.  So at our funerals we mourn but we celebrate what Christ has done.


BLUE – the color of the Advent season which has come to represent the joy and anticipation of the coming of Christ.  You can think of the color of the Advent season like that of the early morning the deep blue of the sky before the light of the sun breaks forth.  It is the color that anticipates the coming of the light (Jesus) into the world.


GREEN – the color of life and growth it is the color which represents what the church calls “regular time”.  Green is the color used for most of the Sundays of the year. It is for the Sundays between Epiphany and Lent, and then for the many Sundays between Pentecost and Advent. Green reminds us that God is in the world moving and giving life to us and to his church, that the Holy Spirit is continually leading and guiding us and that life in the church is never about standing still.  It is about growth.  We are called to grow in our relationships with God, in our relationships with each other, in our ability to love and serve the world.  Green is the color that reminds us that we are all part of God’s garden here in this world, and it is God’s gift to us that we get to produce the good fruits of his love and purpose.


PURPLE – is the color of Lent and it has a double meaning.  First, we remember that purple is the color of royalty and in the time when our Lord walked this earth only kings and aristocrats would wear purple.  The color therefore reminds us of the majesty our Lord Jesus, the Lord of lords and the King of kings. But also we see a darkness in purple.  It is the color given to the time when we focus on the sacrifice of self that Jesus gave for us.  Purple reminds us that it is our king who went to the cross.  It is therefore a color of sobriety and humility which should bring us to penitence and reflection. 


RED* – is the color which represents the out pouring of the Holy Spirit, therefore it is the color which represents the Day of Pentecost.  For Lutherans, this is also the color used for Reformation Day.  Red points to the fire of God that moves and shapes God’s people. 


As we move through the Church year these colors help us to mark time.  When we move from the season after Epiphany to Lent – everything changes – and we see that reflected in the colors before our face.  When we pass through Holy Week and reach Easter – we see the sanctuary colored in white to celebrate Christ’s victory.  The colors of the church help orient us to where we are in the year and what part of God’s story we are hearing at that time. 


I hope this is helpful for you, if you have questions please feel free to ask or leave a comment below.


Pr. Mike


*Commemorations of Saints of the Church – throughout the church year we will celebrate and commemorate people who have gone before us in the life of the church.  When we do this there are specific readings that go along with the memory of that particular person.  There are also appropriate liturgical colors for those days.  The color for commemorations is either white or red.  The way the color is determined is by how the person died.


 If the person died witnessing to the faith or died for the faith that person is a martyr.  As a martyr they are commemorated by the color red.  This is not because of their blood, but because the church believes that it is the HOLY SPIRIT that empowers these people to make the ultimate witness to Jesus Christ with their very lives.  Red would be the color to commemorate Peter, Paul, Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


If the person did not die for Christ but had a more peaceful end the color would be white.  This is because that person died in the promise of Christ and received their heavenly reward.  That is life with Christ and the promise of resurrection.  White would commemorate the lives of people like St. Augustine, Martin Luther, Thomas Acquinas, Mother Theresa.



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