The colour purple

I do not know why the acclaimed novel, The Colour Purple, was so named. Maybe it is because of the cruelty and violence? Or maybe purple is an ‘in-between’ colour – neither blue nor red. Maybe it is suggesting the country in which it is set, the United States of America, is itself an ‘in-between’ country – neither free nor enslaved – but somewhere in-between? 


Whatever the reason, purple is the colour of Advent, an ‘in-between’ season. It recalls the trouble history of Israel, sometimes free and often times enslaved. Israel looked forward to a Messiah, someone who would free them once and for all, and Advent is a time when we remember their long wait and how they spent it. Not a very edifying story. But a story spotted with words of hope. ‘The nations will stream to Jerusalem’, because it is the great city where their desires will be satisfied.

We recall that looking forward and find our focus in what actually happened: a child was born in Bethlehem. We surround that moment with joy and celebration because we grasp the first inklings of what it means. There was no ‘streaming to Jerusalem’ though a few wise men from the east did make the journey and, for a moment, represented us all. But the leaders didn’t like what they saw and heard and in time they killed the child.

Yet a remnant got the message and spread the word throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. This was the second part of the ‘in-between’. Advent looks to Christmas but that is only the beginning. It goes much deeper. Advent looks to the final fulfilment of the whole story of the world. The enigmatic words used are: ‘a new heaven and a new earth’.  Something final, complete and totally fulfilling is about to happen.

But for this to arrive, the main actors, us, we have to make choices. And there will be a reckoning. The way Luke puts it is, ‘then, of two men in the field, one is taken, one is left; of two women at the mill, one is taken, one is left.’ Our cyclones today, in giving us a literal physical picture of this, are a searing parable of what Jesus means. The more people make good choices the closer we get to overcoming evil and the final triumph.

The words Jesus uses are, ‘stand ready, stay awake’.  The opposite of ‘awake’ is ‘asleep’ and we live in between these two states – in a purple zone. This applies to us as individuals but we can see it clearly when we look at the great events of our world. It is surely obvious by now we drifted into the Ukraine war because, for the past three decades, all the main participants were asleep.

27 November 2022          Advent Sunday 1   Is 2:1-5        Rom113:11-14          Mt 24:37-44

Post published in: Faith

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