Did I scare you? October 31st looms on the calendar only three days away; and the autumn eve claims to be the most frightening time of the year.
The church doesn’t quite know what to do with Halloween. Some believe it is a demonic observation that accentuates the occult. Others think it is a nothing more than a harmless fall festival. However, a deeper meaning makes the holiday a holy day for Christians.
“Halloween” is a contraction of the words “All Hallow’s Eve.” “Hallow” means to make holy. “Hallows” names God’s holy ones or saints. In the church calendar, October 31st is the evening before “All Saints Day” when the church honors God’s faithful dead.
Like many Christian holidays, the church co-opted a pagan holiday and baptized it with new meaning. The ancient Celtic people observed “Samhain” (SAH-win) on October 31-November 1. The festival celebrated the harvest and recognized the division between the “light” and “dark” halves of the year. It combined Thanksgiving and New Year’s in the Celtic calendar.
During this time, the Celts believed that the line between this world and the next—between the living and the dead—thinned. Spirts could cross the weakened boundary freely. So frightened people lit bonfires, carved gourds, and wore masks to frighten or confuse any harmful spirits. Many of our Halloween traditions reflect these Celtic practices.
Little wonder that Halloween so confuses the church. It blends piety and paganism, the profound and profane, the sacred and secular. Some devout believers see the occult disguised in costumes. Others dismiss the day as a harmless folk festival. A few recall the deeper meaning of “All Hallow’s Eve.”
On Saturday, fear and faith symbolically face off against one another. Halloween sports the traditional colors of black and orange. Black represents the darkness of night. Orange symbolizes the light of fire. The black dark of doubt challenges the orange fire of faith.
In my office, I possess a copy of a 16th century prayer from A Peasants’ Cornish Litany which reads:
What frightens you? What threatens to scare your faith to death? Jesus Christ calls us from fear to faith. We can become fearless!
An inverse correlation exists between faith and fear. The greater our faith, the less our fear. The greater our fear, the less our faith. They mix like oil and water. Faith drives out fear. Fear drives out faith.
I am not attempting to minimize the soul-searing, terrifying moments of life that we all face. In a scary, fallen world, it is natural to be afraid. And there are times when we weakly pray, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” However, God’s children are called to let our fear drive us to faith; then our faith can drive out our fear.
David’s words in Psalm 23:4 claim God’s presence even in the darkest parts of life: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me. A contemporary Christian song declares: When the shadows close in, Lord, still I will say: Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Fear nothing this Halloween. Fear nothing in this world. Fear nothing in life. Fear nothing in death. We serve the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and nothing can overcome us in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.