The Problem with Purple

Our old, traditional Kansas City home is perfect for Christmas. If you do a child’s drawing of a house – square box, pointed roof, front door, two windows at the top, two windows at the bottom, you’d have our house. Oh, yes, and bushes out front. Now covered with lights. And lights in the windows and a Christmas tree in the big picture window beside the door. We have a lot of lights. And tinsel. And red bows. And candles marching down the center of the dining room table.

We are joyfully waiting for Christmas.

Two days ago when we were out driving on errands, we passed a church with purple drapery out front. I’d momentarily forgotten that Rome had returned Advent to a penitential season: let us think of all the ways we are unworthy of the Christ; let us control our joy in the season and think of all the ways we are small and insignificant.

Whose idea was that anyway? Who broached the concept that people needed to be controlled at this time of year? I mean, yes, we all need to control ourselves at this time of year – control aggressive driving and frustrated shopping; control grinch-like anger at too many people shopping; control dashing and struggling and over-spending, over-drinking and eating. But penitent? Isn’t there enough going on without adding our unworthiness too? 

I like the post-Vatican II Advent blue. I can even appreciate Advent blue in decorative lights. Blue is soft, gentle, a happy color. Blue offers an opening into a wider view.

What are you waiting for this Advent season – are you waiting in a sense of penitence, hoping it will all be over soon; or are you waiting in openness and a quiet joy?

Can you offer grace to another or are you caught in the have-tos and the wish-I-didn’t-have-tos?

Can you look at the deep blue and purple tones of a winter night sky, and see peace and promise?

Perhaps the child we wait for, the child we seek, is the child inside each of us – the one we too often leave behind; the one who laughs and plays and finds unlimited possibilities in the smallest moment.  

Celebrate the child.