Today's Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53

When the four weeks prior to Christmas roll around, we tend to deck our churches, houses, and halls with green and red. If we were to follow Church tradition, however, we might decorate for the season a little differently. On an Advent wreath, there are three purple (or blue) candles and one pink candle. Traditionally, these are the colors symbolizing the Advent season of preparation and anticipation leading up to Christmas Eve. What do these colors mean, though?

While pink stands for joy and blue is often used to symbolize the royalty of Christ, the purple of Advent is the traditional color of suffering. Also used during Lent and Holy Week, purple is meant to remind the believer of Christ’s suffering and his crucifixion—it’s a color intended to place Christians in a penitent and thankful state of mind as we remember how Christ brought us hope through his suffering.

It’s easy to be joyful during the weeks of Advent. Christmas is coming, after all! And joy is a proper emotion to feel during Advent. But it is also proper to feel somber and reflect upon not just the incarnation of Christ’s first coming, but his crucifixion, as well. The prophets of the Old Testament foretold both, and they understood the two were inexorably linked. In Isaiah 53:7, Isaiah says he was, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter.”

Advent is both a looking back and a looking ahead; it is both reflection and anticipation. Joy and repentance are mixed in this season of remembrance and waiting. Christ is both already and not yet. And when we reflect on Isaiah 53 during the season of Advent, we have an opportunity to give thanks that he has already taken our suffering (Isaiah 53:4-6) so we can anticipate future glory.