The Christian Year: Colors

Wise worship planners and leaders will draw on the power of visuals also.

Nearly everything we’ve said about the practice of the Christian Year so far deals with its content and meaning, most of which is expressed verbally. But words alone are insufficient. Wise worship planners and leaders will draw on the power of visuals also.

If it is true, as we are told, that most of what we learn and remember comes to us in non-verbal ways, then surely we should consider non-verbal methods for communicating the significance of the Christian Year. Both the movement and the message of the Christian Year will be fostered by non-verbals. Fortunately, Christian tradition has handed us an excellent tool for this in the colors associated with the seasons of the year. Entering a sanctuary with a change of colors immediately signals to worshipers the beginning of a new season of the Christian Year.

Though there are many types of non-verbals that can be used, the colors of the Christian Year seem to saturate all of them. So attention must begin with colors.

The values, traditions, and culture of each congregation will shape and determine the extent to which these colors are used. In some congregations the colors, and the changing of the colors, will be very obvious and prominent in each season; in other congregations less. And the longer a congregation observes the Christian Year and becomes increasingly comfortable with it, the more extensive will be the use of colors as they find new and creative ways to color the season.

The locations and the manner of color usage is limited only by the physical settings of a worship center and the imagination of worship leaders. There are no standards of where they should be utilized, though there are several practices that seem most common. Primarily among those are:

  • Sanctuary Banners or Streamers – perhaps the most common, the immediate recognition of colorful banners or streamers upon entering the worship space prepares the worshiper for a certain seasonal emphasis.
  • Vestures – in congregations where the clergy are vested, their robes can have a stole with colors which represent the season being observed.
  • Pulpit and Table paraments – a colorful parament on the Lord’s Table and on the pulpit can be very effective.
  • Bulletins and Worship Sheets – where these are printed in color, they can include borders or other art work of color to represent the season.
  • Projected Slides – with colorful backgrounds, border designs or other artwork that display the colors of the season.

 

There are many others that you may design in your own congregation, but underlying all of this is the common agreement concerning the colors of each season. Usually these are the colors which are associated with each season.

 

Season

Color

Message

Advent

Purple or Blue

We examine and renew our hearts in repentance, patience and anticipation for welcoming the coming of Christ.

Christmas

White or Gold

An expression of joy, giving thanks, and embracing God’s presence in Jesus Christ.

Epiphany

White

We welcome Jesus as the manifestation of God’s light in the world.

After Epiphany (Ordinary Time)

Green

Growing with a new commitment to display the life of Christ through our witness.

Lent

Purple or Blue

Self-examination, repentance, and renewal through our identification with the journey of Jesus.

The Great Triduum

Purple or Blue (or Red as an alternative for Holy Week)

These “three great days” are a time for fasting, prayer, and reflection on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, with a commitment to live in the pattern of his death and resurrection.

Easter

White or Gold

We celebrate Jesus’ victory and are called to a Christian spirituality of dying to sin and rising to life of the Spirit.

Eastertide

White or Gold

We reflect on Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven and commit ourselves to live as those who are risen with Christ.

Pentecost

Red

We celebrate the power of the Spirit and commit ourselves to walk with the Spirit and participate in the growth and spread of the Christian Church in the world.

After Pentecost

Ordinary Time

Growing Time

Green

We embrace the teachings of the church, dig deeper into God’s truth, and grow in our obedience and service to the mission of the church.

Christ the King Sunday

White or Gold

We bow before Christ as cosmic Lord and invite him to take up residence in our hearts and lives.

 

The church that observes the Christian Year, enhanced with these colors, will find their nurture in the faith richer and their worship more balanced.

We encourage you to find new and creative ways in your congregation to make their use meaningful. The way to utilize these colors is limited only by your own creativity.

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