What Color Is Easter?

Submitted by Judith Gotwald

 

Theme: Easter Customs
Object: None particularly needed, although a purple parament or stole would be helpful
Scripture: John 20: 11-18

Christ is risen. (Wait for the answer: He is risen indeed. You might repeat this a couple of times until it becomes second nature.)

There are other customs of the season. Some of you have been asking for an Easter Egg Hunt for several weeks. And then there are the beautiful lilies at the altar. Some churches hold a service very early in the morning at the crack of dawn. Some have a breakfast before or after worship. Can you think of any other customs? (Allow the children to think and answer)

There is another custom that is a bit more subtle and that involves color. What color is Easter?

Look up at the front of the church and pay special attention to the altar. What color do you see?

Today the altar has a cloth on it which is white. Do you remember what color the altar cloth has been for the last few weeks? I'll give you a hint. I am holding one of the altar cloths from last week here in my hand. (Or use a purple stoll.) The color of the altar last week was purple.

Every now and then we change the color of the cloths on the altar. But we don't pick just any color. We have reasons for each color we place on the altar. Through the years, Christians have come to associate different colors with different religious ideas. It's a custom, like the Easter greeting or Easter lilies.

We have other altar colors. Sometimes we have red, green, blue or even black altar colors. They all have special meanings but we can talk about them later on. Let's concentrate on the altar color last week and the altar color this week.

Here's a question for you to think about. Why was our altar purple last week and white this week?

Purple is the color of royalty, the color of kings. Why? Well, purple dye was very expensive hundreds of years ago. Only people who were rich could afford purple cloth. Kings and queens were among the few people to own anything purple.

Last week was Palm Sunday. We were celebrating the day that people shouted to Jesus as he came to Jerusalem as if he were a king. So the color for Palm Sunday is the color of kings -- purple.

Purple has another meaning. It is also the color of penitence, of feeling sorry. And so purple was on our altar for the last forty days while we observed the church season of Lent, a time during which Christians concentrate on their relationship with God in preparation of the observance of Holy Week and Jesus dying on the cross for us. But for the moment this is behind us.

This morning we are celebrating Easter. What color would you pick to symbolize Easter? Think about it for a second or two. (let the children tell you their ideas) I think I would pick yellow for Easter. To me it is a joyful, spring color, the color of many spring flowers, such as forsythia and daffodils. It is the color of sunshine and the longer days which come at Easter time. It is the color of an egg yolk and the egg is a symbol of Easter. New life breaks out of an egg and can make us think of Jesus breaking out of the tomb. If it were up to me, the altar would be a bright yellow this morning. But it doesn't matter what I might choose. The church over many centuries has chosen the color white, sometimes with gold, to remind us that Christ is born anew and has washed our sins away and made our hearts as white as snow. The color figures in today's Gospel story. The women come to the tomb and find men there in dazzling white clothing. White is the color we put on the altar for the most special worship celebrations -- like Easter. White is a color we associate with celebration and closeness to God.

Get in the habit of checking the altar when you come into church every week. See what color it is and ask yourself, why is the altar this color this morning. I'll give you a heads up. For the next fifty days, the altar is going to be white. I wonder what color will be next.

Now before you go back to your seats, let's see if you remember the Easter Greeting. Christ is risen. (listen for the answer)