Thursday, October 31, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
‘My favorite religious holiday – Halloween’
We are coming upon one of my favorite religious holidays, Halloween. Yes, it is a religious holiday, or at least has its roots in religion. Halloween —which used to be spelled Hallow e’en, is a contraction of All Hallows Eve, which preceded All Saints Day, one of the banner occasions in the church calendar.
All Saints Day celebrates all the lesser saints on the church calendar. Every great saint or martyr of church history has their own day. If you look up the official church calendars, you will see that we could have a holiday or holy-day —holiday is another one of those contractions — for every day of the year. There are lots of people who have distinguished themselves in one way or another on behalf of our good Lord, and the church remembers them and commemorates their consecration.
But what about the ordinary people who loved God and served him well? This is where All Saints Day comes in. It is for all those people whom the church calendar provides no day. I like to think this is for our grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or the neighbors down the street, who were faithful in their time but remembered by only those few of us near enough to notice. It is our chance to give thanks for the humble believers, for those near and dear to us who sacrificed their own pleasure, served others, and showed us the way.
Now, the evening before All Saints was traditionally the time when the spirits of the damned — can I use that word in The South Reporter? — had their chance. It was their time to rise from the pit of Hades and roam the earth, mournful and moaning, intent to do such harm as they could. Of course, this is fantasy, because the Scripture says Christ has the keys, and has shut the door. But superstitious believers seized the occasion to, as it were, whistle past the graveyard, and stick out their tongues at the devil.
Halloween plays an important psychological role in life and religion. It is a recognition that evil exists and that it must be confronted and dealt with. As St. Paul says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death has been defeated. It has no more power for those who are in Christ. It has been transformed from “the wages of sin” to “the free gift of eternal life.” Its “sting” has been removed, though not always the fear or the pain. So, Halloween is a wonderful time for children to take their first steps in dealing with these things, and the frivolity of it all, with all the boo and scare, is a lesson that we are not supposed to grant too much status to evil and its minions.
In our present world, I think people discount what Christ achieved, and I think this has caused something of a reaction to Halloween. Yes, it sometimes gets out of hand when older kids and nefarious adults get into the act. I am glad that schools and churches provide wholesome activities that keep kids out of traffic and let them enjoy being with their friends. But the Bible is clear that the ultimate outcome of the contest between good and evil has been decided. Halloween is a good time to reflect upon that and to comfort our children with that good truth. It is also a good time to take advantage of the opportunity for thankfulness that the day after Halloween affords. That is the really great occasion, and it is not cluttered up with candy and costumes. So let us reflect quietly upon those whose lives make us feel grateful and resolve to carry on where they left off.
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