The church DDH and I attend has a wonderful Hanging of the Greens service as the first Wednesday night Advent service of the year, where members of the congregation read the meaning of different decorations and an associated scripture before hanging it in the church.
It starts with explaining the symbolism of evergreens, the blue vestments, the Immanuel banner, and then of the Advent wreath, with its Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels, and Christ candles. The children's message is an explanation of the Chrismons, after which the children get to hang these symbolic ornaments on the trees.
But the highlight of the evening are the wreaths. We use eleven, each one decorated in a different color with its own symbolism.
(The explanations are adapted from the order of service we used. All Scriptures NIV.)
Do you like the lion, zebra, and polar bear hanging out on the mountain?
The many different colors in this wreath represent God's Creation. God created a world of bright and vibrant colors so that we may see his handiwork. And because it's totally awesome.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. --Romans 1:20
The color black represents our sin-darkened world before the coming Messiah. Sin separates mankind from God and leaves man in the dark. We often forget that Advent, like Lent, is a penitential season in which we should be reminded of the immensity of our sin and our desperate need for a Savior.
The people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death,
a light has dawned. --Matthew 4:16
The color blue represents our hope and anticipation of the Lord's coming. It hints at a tone of excitement in our waiting--it's no accident Mary is most commonly depicted wearing blue.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” --Luke 1:28-33
The color gold represents Christ's royal priesthood. The costliest treasure, priceless, is the establishment of the new covenant and the sacrifice that God made for us.
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. --Hebrews 8:1-2
The color pink represents joy. We, His children, are filled with joy at His coming, and we share that joy with others.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” --Luke 2:8-14
The color white represents purity. Christ was sinless and through His resurrection He sees us as being robed in white, along with all the saints--pure because of His forgiveness.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. --Psalm 51:7
The color green represents life and growth. It reminds us of the life we have in Jesus Christ, and the way we grow in our faith through Word and Sacrament, just as Jesus, true man, grew here on Earth.
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. --Luke 2:49-52
The color purple represents the kingliness and royalty of Christ. As we prepare ourselves for His coming, we repent of our wrongs and submit our lives to Jesus, our King of kings.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. --Luke 2:4-5
The color silver represents refinement. We remember the constant refinement of our lives and how we have been made pure by our Savior's birth, life, death, and resurrection.
This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold. They will call on my name
and I will answer them; I will say, "They are my people,"
and they will say, "The LORD is our God." --Zechariah 13:9
The color yellow represents warmth and comfort. We acknowledge the encompassing warmth and comfort given to us in the birth of our Savior.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. --2 Corinthians 1:3-5
The color red represents the blood of Christ shed for us. We remember the crown of thorns as seen in the holly leaves and berries. The empty cross assures us of His promise of everlasting life.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. --Luke 24:1-3
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. --John 3:16
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I've been trying to think of ways to somehow adapt this for use at home--obviously I don't have space for eleven huge wreaths hanging on the walls! But I love the idea of the use of color as a meaningful reminder of different aspects of the faith. So I'm mulling the problem over in my mind. Any suggestions?
What sort of decorations do you use in this season, at home or at church? What objects and colors have meaning for you, whether it is generally symbolic or personal, religious or not?