Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 66:5-7.
One of my greatest joys in leadership of the church is setting the altar table – to drape the paraments, to arrange the candles, to place the cross. I love to learn the stories behind these elements of worship. They are not happenstance and they did not just come to be. They was and continues to be great intention in their selection and their use.
Connie told me a story about how her husband, Warren, so loved to worship God with his church family. He was a religiously frugal man, and yet he gave freely to honor and enhance the worship of God through helping fund a brass cross for the altar.
Marty is the beloved wife of her sweetheart, Chuck. It was my privilege to lead his celebration of life many years ago. Memorial gifts were given in his honor and Marty applied them towards the purchase of new oil candles in the Sanctuary. “That way, Sarah, Chuck and I will continue to worship together every Sunday. He will be the one bearing the light of Christ in the sanctuary.”
Yvonne was (and is!) one of the most dedicated altar guild matrons I know. Cane in one hand and parament in the other, the way she held those clothes and laid them on the altar, it was as if she was swaddling Jesus into the manger. She moved with such care. She showed such respect.
These items on the altar – to these women and more – were not just things. They were and are memories and testaments to loved ones. They were and are memories and testaments to the faithfulness of our God.
Art has always been an important way to communicate the Christian faith. The use of music has helped the believers understand their Godly hope. Other art works have been used from the beginning to help express various aspects of Christian doctrine and life. Colors, alter paraments or coverings, and banners are some of the most important visual ways Christians have used to express their faith in worship.
The objective in covering the Communion Table with cloths of various colors was to help focus the attention of worshippers on the special nature of Christ as the Perfect Sacrifice. In the early days of Christian worship, Advent and Christmas were seen as a somber time, much like Lent is today. Purple table coverings were used to speak of Christ’s Kingship, but the mood was somber.
As Christians began to share their celebrations with their non-Christian neighbors they began to focus on the joy of the Christmas event. As the emphasis of Christmas began to change to one of joyful celebration the color used also changed to express Christ the King in that more happy way. While purple is still used in some churches and at certain times, many Christian churches now use blue to speak of the Kingship of Christ when the occasion is joyful. At Advent we wait with anticipation and celebration for our coming Christ.
Prayer: “O come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”* Amen.
*”O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.