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LiturgyGram: About the Season of Advent


Advent is the first season in the church year, comprising the four weeks before Christmas. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin, “to come,” and the church has observed Advent as weeks of preparation since the fifth century with themes of watchfulness, preparation, and hope infusing this season. Together we both anticipate the celebration of God’s coming in the form of the Christ child and the final coming of Christ in the time to come. Blue or purple is the appointed color for the season.


A Few Notes on Current Practices for Celebrating Advent

  • Lutheran churches observe Advent in numerous ways. Most light the advent wreath during the four weeks of Advent, adding one new candle each week. These candles are typically lit during the Gathering rite. Prayers for the Advent Wreath lighting can be found in Sundays and Seasons.


  • Some congregations hold midweek services during the Advent season.


  • Many congregations experience the challenge of celebrating Advent in a culture that celebrates Christmas during the month of December. The commercialism of Christmas can so easily creep into the faith practices of the church. Some congregations hold Advent Festivals for the Sunday school or Advent musical events to help the faithful understand how to keep Advent amid the culture’s early celebration of Christmas. Advent devotional booklets for home use are also a helpful resource.


  • Theological issues related to Advent often come up when discussing worship planning, especially related to musical matters. On the one hand, Advent is a time to prepare, to sing music related to the impending birth of Christ. On the other hand, as Christians, we know that Christ is already present with us. It is important that Advent is not a “pretend time,” as if Jesus had never come into the world. Focusing on the waiting for the light of Christ in a dark world and on the eschatological nature of Advent can help make Advent a more depth-filled, honest time of waiting.


  • Keeping this in mind, it is wise to make musical decisions in Advent (as in all other times) with care. Some assemblies do not sing any Christmas carols in Advent, remaining true to the spirit of watching and waiting that characterizes the season. Other congregations, for pastoral or teaching reasons, begin to sing some Christmas carols in Advent. If a new Christmas hymn is to be learned, for example, Advent might be a time for teaching.


LiturgyGram: Why the Colors?


Today’s blog post is taken from the Worship FAQ What is the Meaning and Use of Liturgical Colors?. For more resources, follow the link to the original FAQ.



In the Christian tradition, colors are used for vestments and paraments, but a unified system of colors developed only gradually and haphazardly until and through the Middle Ages. Today, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America provides a system of colors for use by its congregations; for the most part, the same system is also used by Roman and Anglican churches, at least in the United States; and by many churches around the world, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Many of the colors associated with the seasons are closely linked with the experience of Christians in the Northern hemisphere. Christians in the Southern hemisphere will experience the church year differently in that context, perhaps calling forth different color associations. It is also helpful to realize that colors have different associations across the globe, just as they have had different associations over the course of the church’s history. For example, white is the color North American and European Christians typically associate with Christmas and Easter, the color white signifying the purity of Christ, light or joy. In many Eastern cultures, however, white connotes mourning. Red, associated with energy, blood or fire among other things in Western culture, is the color associated with purity in India.

The colors serve to adorn the worship space, and to call attention to the nature of the season or festival being celebrated.


A brief summary of color usage, according to the church year:

Advent: Blue is associated with Advent, suggesting hope. This association originated in Scandinavia, probably because purple dye was too expensive for churches to use. Some assemblies use purple in Advent, a color associated with royalty as the church awaits the newborn king. (note, this is a different meaning than when it is used in Lent; see below).

Christmas: White, calling to mind the purity of the newborn Christ, and to our light and joy in him. Some also use Gold.

Epiphany of Our Lord: White (see Christmas).

Baptism of Our Lord: White (see Christmas).

Time after Epiphany: Green is used for its symbolism of our growth in Christ. Green, in a sense, is a “neutral color,” used when more festive or more somber color is not appointed.

Transfiguration of Our Lord: White (see Christmas).

Ash Wednesday: Purple is the preferred color as this is the first day of Lent. Historically, black has also been used on this day, since it is the color of the ashes to which we will all return.

Lent: Purple is typically associated with Lent, suggesting repentance and solemnity.

Sunday of the Passion: Scarlet is the preferred color of this first day of Holy Week, as it suggests the deep color of blood. (Scarlet is to be distinguished from the brighter color of red, which is appointed for the Day of Pentecost, martyrs’ days, and certain church celebrations). If a parish does not have scarlet vestments, purple may be used.

Days of Holy Week: Scarlet or purple may be used for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday: For this fourth day of Holy Week, celebrated as the institution of the Lord’s Supper, scarlet or white is used.

Good Friday: No vestments or paraments are used on this day, after the stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday night.

Vigil of Easter: White or Gold suggests of joy in the Resurrection is used on this night. Easter Day: Gold or white is suggested for this day. The gold color symbolizes that this day is the “queen of feasts,” unique in the entire church year.

Sundays of Easter: White suggests the joy of the resurrection.

Day of Pentecost: Red as the color of fire is used on this day when we remember the tongues of fire descended on the crowd in Jerusalem. In contrast to the color of scarlet, Pentecost’s red is a bright color.

The Holy Trinity: White is suggested, the expression of joy in the mystery of the Triune God.

Time after Pentecost: Green is used, to indicate our growth in faith as we follow the teachings and ministry of Christ. Some assemblies use differing shades of green throughout the Sundays after Pentecost, a lighter green in summer and a darker green in fall.

Christ the King: The final day of the church year uses white, a festive color suggesting light, joy, and the celebration of our Lord.

Lesser festivals and commemorations are white, unless a martyr is celebrated, in which case bright red is suggested.


LiturgyGram: A Little About Lent



Lent is the forty-day season (excluding Sundays) of penitence and preparation for the Three Days of Holy Week and Easter.

A Very Brief History

The term “Lent” originally comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten” which means “spring.” This is the time, in the Northern Hemisphere, when the days are lengthening. The season began as period of fasting leading up to the Vigil of Easter. Catechumens, those preparing for baptism at Easter, would fast and spend days in intense preparation. For those that were already baptized, Lent was a period to be renewed in their faith by studying the Bible, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

Although it was originally only a two-day period of preparation, Lent became a three-week preparatory period in the middle of the fourth century and then this was further expanded into six-weeks, or forty days. By the end of the fifth century, there was a desire to exclude Sundays from Lent since Sundays are always celebrated as feasts of the Resurrection. Thus Lent begins not on Sunday, but on Ash Wednesday.

The current practice of forty days of Lent recall Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness after his Baptism (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:1-2) as well as Moses’ forty-day fast on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28).

A Few Notes on Current Practice

  • The appointed liturgical color for Lent is purple because purple has long been associated with royalty. In this case, Christ reigns from a cross.
  • Currently, the ancient understanding of Lent as both a time for baptismal preparation and baptismal renewal is being rediscovered in Lutheran rites and practice. Many congregations hold mid-week services during Lent and a baptismal renewal theme is particularly appropriate for these.
  • Many congregations refrain from speaking or singing the word “alleluia” during Lent. “Burying” the alleluia occurs at the conclusion of worship on Transfiguration Sunday and it is restored at either the Vigil of Easter or Easter Sunday. A Lenten acclamation replaces the alleluia verse in preparation for hearing the Gospel (See ELW pg. 103 for one example). For more on this practice, see the FAQ, “Why don’t we use alleluias during Lent?”


LiturgyGram: Asperges




Ever wondered, “Why the water?”

Asperges (noun, pronounced ah-SPUR-jes) is the sprinkling of baptismal water upon worshipers as a reminder of their baptism. The ministers who are performing the apserges may use a pine branch or a special sprinkler called an aspergillium (often a bound bundle of straw that resembles a small broom). Sprinkling with water is an option in worship any time the assembly participates in an affirmation of baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ and it is particularly suitable during the Easter season.

To sprinkle the water, a minister dips the branch or sprinkler in the bowl of water then flings it over the heads of the assembly. It is helpful for the minister to use a large arc-type action with the arm rather than just flicking the wrist so that large groups of people can feel the touch of the water at the same time.

Some worshippers find it helpful to trace the sign of the cross on themselves as they are sprinkled as a way of reminding themselves that they have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

LiturgyGram: Why the Bread?

LiturgyGrams are brief snippets of worship information, drawing from the ELCA’s Worship FAQ’s and The Use of the Means of Grace.

Bread is one of the elements of Holy Communion, being the body of Christ

Bread and wine ready for a Eucharist celebration at Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection.

Ever wondered, “Why the bread?”

Bread is one of the elements of Holy Communion, being the body of Christ.  Different assemblies use different varieties of bread for communion, including unleavened loafs, leavened loafs, and wafers, but in all cases bread is shared. Communion practice follows the example of the Last Supper, as recorded in Matthew 26:26-29, its parallels, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-24.

Congregations of the ELCA express unity but not uniformity in their communion practices. Congregations do use bread and wine, as set forth in the ELCA’s set of priorities for the practices of word and sacraments, The Use of the Means of Grace, which states:

In accordance with the words of institution, this church uses bread and wine in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Principle 44).

Wondering what kinds of bread are used and in what form? Various options and their rationale are discussed in this Worship FAQ.