Disheveled Theologian: The Wordless Book colors of Christmas -- black
When I was a kid I attended Good News Club one day a week after school. It was held at our church and my mom was one of the leaders. Good News Club was run by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), which still exists today. One of the things I remember most about Good News Club was the Wordless Book.
The Wordless Book is a five-page book, with each page a different solid color. As you might imagine … wait for it … there were no words on the pages! The point of the book was that a person could use it as an evangelistic tool, telling the story of salvation as represented by the colors of each page. Each color stood for part of the story, and therefore the story could be told by explaining what each color represented. It was, and remains, a good tool to use with children, because even ones too small to read can remember what a color stands for.
I thought about the Wordless Book today because I have been thinking about the colors of Christmas. Red. Green. White. Gold. I thought maybe I could write about them for Advent, but I hadn’t quite figured out a way to do so until the Wordless Book came to mind. The colors of the Wordless Book just happen to be red, green, white, gold and black. Kinda seems like I can make that work for Advent! And so, for the four weeks of Advent and the week after, we’ll be looking at these Christmas colors … and how they fit into the Wordless Book!
To begin with, a little background on the Wordless Book. It was invented, in its original form, with only red, white and black pages, by the famous Victorian preacher Charles Spurgeon, in 1866. Not long after, D. L. Moody, another famous preacher of the era, spoke of the book but added the gold page. An equally famous hymn writer of the time, Fanny Crosby, also used the book, as did poet and missionary to India Amy Carmichael. When CEF began using the book, somewhere around 1940, they added the green page. To any church historian, these are some impressive names! It’s exciting to think of how this little book without words is still used, 152 years after its creation.
And so … week one of our Christmas Colors/Wordless Book/Advent theme reveals page one of the Wordless Book: BLACK.
OK, so I admit, black isn’t a very Christmasy color. Then again, I saw on the TV that black Christmas trees are “in” this year. And let’s face it, you can’t have Frosty the Snowman without a black top hat. Neither can you have a book about salvation without a black page, because black stands for sin.
And there’s no point to salvation if there isn’t sin.
Sin isn’t a word people like to talk about. It’s not pretty. It’s a little scary. But if there isn’t sin, then there isn’t a need for salvation, and if there isn’t a need for salvation then there isn’t a need for Jesus. And without Jesus, there would be nothing to celebrate at Christmas because it wouldn’t exist because Jesus wouldn’t have had to come to earth to die to forgive us of our sins. Clear as mud?
So yes, we need that black page. Sin — anything we do that is contrary to God’s will — is tragic and it separates us from God, but Jesus came to forgive us of our sin. So we celebrate Christmas as the moment that Jesus, the incarnate God — God in the flesh — chose to begin his life on earth. The moment he began his journey toward the cross. His journey to be the remedy for that black sin in our hearts.
So yes, black is a color of Christmas.
But red is coming!
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV