Each and every Halloween offers us an opportunity to reflect deeply afresh on the nature of life in the church and the world. Toward that end, I invite you to look back in history with me this morning at the origins of this holiday, then further back still to the words Jesus spoke to his church long ago, for the truth he spoke then is every bit as relevant today.
It was believed by the ancient Celtic people that evil spirits came out of hiding as the heat and light of Autumn began to give way to the cold and darkness of Winter. From October 31 through November 2, therefore, they observed a festival called "Samhain," and practiced certain rituals designed to ward off these evil influences. The Celts dressed in costumes designed to disguise their humanity in the hope that the evil spirits would pass them by. They built bonfires to light the long nights and frighten away the denizens of the underworld. They gave away treats at their doors, in a symbolic effort to appease the evil spirits and keep them from unleashing their wicked tricks upon humanity.
When thousands of Celts became Christians during the sixth and seventh Centuries, the church made the decision to try to co-opt or consecrate the celebration of Samhain rather than try to eradicate it. The festival was, after all, aimed at resisting evil—a purpose with which Christians were sympathetic. They, therefore, linked Samhain with the Christian celebration of All Hallow's Day at the start of November—a time when the church remembered and honored all the "hallows"—the "holy ones"—who had served Christ faithfully on earth and had now gone on to their eternal reward. Over the years, that day became variously ...
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