Is Halloween a Witches' Brew?
Yes there are decidedly Christian ways in which we can celebrate Halloween. In our worship services and seasonal events we can interweave two great themes:
1) The lives of saints of the past. In addition to the saints depicted in Scripture, we have nearly 2,000 years of history that can and should be used as challenges to piety and faith. We Protestants have been so concerned about avoiding the veneration of saints that we often have bypassed a rich heritage of faith. Just as the Book of Hebrews gives a roll call of believers, so we can look to countless examples of equally courageous lovers of God.
2) "The life of the blessed in paradise." Most of us have been completely unaware that All Saints' Day is a celebration of all the saints. It is a day when Christians can remember not only those great believers of the past but also loved ones and friends who have served Christ and are now in heaven. True, it is a day to remember the lives of well-known saints and "to follow them in all virtuous and godly living." But it is also a day to remember our own "blessed dead."
Here is a unique opportunity for our churches. At the first news of a death, and during the first weeks of grief, the bereaved receive much attention. But how many widows ever hear their husband's name mentioned years later by fellow Christians? Persons who were once a major part of a church's life are forgottenthough not by their loved ones. A child who dies may be mourned by the church, but a year later that child is seldom mentioned or thought ofexcept by parents and siblings.
In every congregation sit people who have a great desire to speak of those in their families who loved Christ and them. Remembering such people both publicly and privately is what All Saints' Day is about. Perhaps the pastor could give vignettes of numerous departed saints from the congregation, pointing out specific characteristics of faith worth emulating. All sorts of creative approaches could be developed. Appropriate three-minute eulogies by elders or other spiritually mature leaders intimately acquainted with the departed could be very powerful in a morning worship service. In less formal events, other approaches could be taken, including the reading of written tributes.
In Holy Days and Holidays (Edward M. Deems, ed., Gale, 1968), a compilation of sermons, literary allusions, and notes, there is a lengthy section on All Saints' Day that includes much on the subject of Christ's power over death and the joys of heaven. Here is one quotation from this volume:
"An eminent divine once said, 'The first idea I had of heaven was a great city with spires, and a great many angels, but not one person I knew. Then one of my little brothers died and then I thought of heaven as a great city, with walls and spires and a little fellow that I knew. Then a second brother died, then a third and fourth, then one of my friends died and I began to know a little about it, but never until I let one of my own children go up into the skies had I any idea as to what heaven was like. Then the second and the third and the fourth child was taken away from me, and there came a time when I lived more with them and with God than here on the earth.' So the best view of heaven comes to you and me, when we have loved ones in that city of light."