Happy Hallow’s Eve!
No, the title is not a typo! Halloween is, historically, one of the most celebrated nights for the people of God. Hallow literally means holy or to make holy. We pray this word persistently every time we pray “Our Father who is in Heaven. Hallowed is your name.” Of course, it wasn’t always called Halloween. The word Halloween is a contraction of the formal name and is derived from the day AFTER Halloween.
The day AFTER Halloween, November 1st, is now called All Saint’s Day. The traditional name for this day is All Hallow’s Day and is a day in the life of the Church when we remember people of faith. Specifically, we remember those who have gone before us and now rest at peace with the Lord. Baptized believers are made holy by God each and every day and yet we also still struggle with sin. When we die, we no longer struggle with sin and are only holy. The hallowed people of God we now call “saints” but the meaning is still the same.
Think of it as a Christian Memorial Day. Traditionally, the people of God would worship at Hallowmas services (think Christmas) and remember their loved ones and their sacrifice for the Kingdom of God on earth. Just like Christmas Eve today, the night before All Hallow’s Day became equally as sacred to celebrate together. Many would worship at night on the eve before All Hallow’s Day then hold vigil at their sainted loved one’s grave until the next morning. This Eve before became known as All Hallow’s Evening. Which eventually contracted down to Halloween.
This is still an important day in the Church. Martin Luther chose Hallow’s Eve to be the day he confronted the leadership of the Church with where they had strayed from the Bible. This became a celebration all its own called Reformation. This action of Martin Luther would cause Christians around the world to leave the Church and return to worshipping God as He taught us to in the Bible.
Unfortunately, today Halloween has become commercialized and is considered by many to be a night of evil or sorcery. This secularization of Christian holidays for worldly gain is not new to us, but it is still sad. Let’s ask Luther’s question “What does this mean?”
It means we ought to fear love and trust God enough so that we can live our faith as disciples of Jesus in the world. It means we need to remain connected together so that we do not fall into the temptations of the world. It means as beloved people of God we can go out into the world and shine light in the darkness.
Many Christians have strong feelings about Halloween. I agree with most of them, even when they don’t agree with each other. See, each of us is in a unique context and therefore have a unique opportunity to shine God’s love. Some embrace the community gathering that occurs around free candy and child centered activities. I know some Christian families that shine the light of Christ by being the house everyone talks about (Large candy bars, hunted house, etc.). I know others that don’t participate and instead have a more subdued celebration around Jesus in their home or at their church.
I believe both of these strategies can work if we do them with love toward God and love toward others. Like foods sacrificed to idols or our presence in Godless places, these can become a weakness of the flesh and we can be led astray. These strategies can also be seen as us as sheep among wolves, missionaries being sent to Godless places to bring the Gospel of Jesus to all people.
Regardless of how you feel about Halloween, it certainly is a highlighted day in our society. It is a Day people talk about and plan for. Because of this, we too can participate in these conversations and allow these conversations to be a blessing. It is not easy to be a believer in a culture that increasingly is turning away from God, but there certainly are many opportunities to shine God’s light and share His love with one another.
Scripture Reading for Sunday, October 30