Over the past several months I’ve been exploring some basic numerology as it is found in the Bible. I’ve always be fascinated with patterns, and during my Masters studies a few years ago my eyes were opened to the use of numbers to express meaning in the Bible, especially in worship.
The number five is not found as often in the Bible, but there is definitely meaning behind it when it occurs. David picked up five stones to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40); the Holy Anointing Oil had five ingredients (Exodus 30:23-25); the Ten Commandments can be seen as two sets of five (Exodus 20:1-17); Jesus took five loaves—and two fish—to feed the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44).
The interesting thing is, all of these examples represent God providing something needed. God redeemed Israel through David; God promised healing through the Holy Anointing Oil; God provided a means to redeem Israel through the Ten Commandments; God dispensed food for those listening to Jesus.
Traditionally, then, five has come to represent God’s grace. It symbolizes all that He gives us and has given His people throughout God’s story. We are about to enter into the season of Advent, which is a time of anticipating the birth of Christ and His second coming. Not coincidentally, this season is usually celebrated over 4 Sundays plus 1 celebration on Christmas (or Christmas Eve).
As we move through the next four weekends, know that Advent is a season of preparation and joy. We see this in the Gospels in John the Baptist, who called people to repent and prepare for the Messiah. Blue or purple is meant to symbolize the sometimes solemn and penitential preparation, as we examine our lives in light of the coming gift of Christ into the world. We also see it in the angels’ visit to the shepherds, bringing news of great joy. Pink or rose represents the joy with which we anticipate Jesus’ birth (and second coming). And white represents the spotless Lamb, the Light of the world.
Let’s join with the angels, and with John the Baptist, as we celebrate and anticipate God’s grace in Christ! Let’s joyously worship through Advent and Christmas!