This week we are highlighting an article from October 2011 to supplement Pr. Borghardt's video short from yesterday,
Can Lutherans Celebrate Halloween? In this article Pr. Buetow encourages us to live on October 31st
the same way we live every other day - as baptized children of God.
Rev. Mark Buetow
Witches, wizards, skeletons, devils, and superheroes? Never mind that. Let’s get to the candy! As Halloween approaches, many calling themselves Christians will get all worked up about this supposedly satanic holiday. With emphases on witches and devils and violent horror, these folks get upset and say that Christians have no business observing this holiday and ought to do something better, something more godly and pious. Thus all over “Halloween” celebrations are replaced with “Fall Festivals.” There’s even a group who invented a new holiday on October 31 called “Jesus Ween.” (Does anyone else think that just sounds odd and creepy all at once?) So can you be a Christian and celebrate Halloween? Can you dress up and go to a party? Go trick-or-treating? Have fun? The fact is, a Christian CAN celebrate and enjoy Halloween. Read on to find out why.
First, a little bit of history. Halloween is taken from the old English “All Hallows Eve.” “All Hallows” refers to “All Saints” which is the festival on November 1 on which the church remembers all her baptized saints and especially those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Since Christian festivals begin at sundown on the day before, October 31 is the Eve of All Saints (just like December 24 is Christmas Eve) or All Hallows Eve, shortened and smushed together over time to “Halloween.” So, at its root, Halloween was just the Eve of the day when all Christian saints were remembered. And when we’re talking about saints, we’re talking baptism! And how can a day which reminds us of our baptism be bad?
On Good Friday, Jesus destroyed the power of the devil. He died for the sins of the world. He died for your sins. St. Paul writes that on the cross, Jesus disarmed the powers of hell (Colossians 2:15). That means when Halloween rolls around and little ghosts and goblins are running around they’re nothing more than jokes and mockeries of the devil. He has no power. He can’t harm you. The devil has no claim on those who have been buried and raised with Jesus and clothed with Christ in their baptism. Those upon whom the blood of the Lamb of God has been sprinkled cannot be snatched out of their Father’s hand! That means when we go out on Halloween, costume or not, we look like Jesus. That’s what your heavenly Father sees when He looks at you. You may be a ghoul or a superhero for trick-or-treating or a party but to your Father in heaven you’ll always look like His Son, dearly beloved and precious.
But isn’t October 31st also a traditional time for pagans to do their thing? Sure. That’s because whenever the church has a holy day, the devil tries to copy it and mock it and lead others astray. So the end of October has long been a time when pagan religions carried on rituals and other weird practices. But let’s face it. Halloween in America has become nothing more than a day to have some fun. Go and get loads of candy. Go to a party and bob for apples. Dress up and act a bit silly. As Christians, we’re so free, having been rescued by Christ from sin and death, that we can laugh at inflatable tombstones and dress like zombies. Perhaps, in some small way, Halloween is the world’s way of trying to pretend death is something to laugh at. But for those who are in Christ, we know that’s all death is. Something to be laughed at. Mocked. Because death has been defeated by Jesus. Your death has been overcome. We know we don’t come back as vampires or zombies. Rather on the Last Day, Jesus will come again and raise us up and there will be no more death.
So live on Halloween the way you live every other day. Make the sign of the cross in the morning to remember that you are a child of God, marked by the Lord has His own child. Go and enjoy your day and eat your candy with a clean conscience, knowing that your robe of righteousness is no dress-up but true clothing whereby you have been covered in Jesus. Serve your neighbor and avoid anything that will harm or be a bother to them. (Not EVERY Halloween activity is a good idea!) And at the end of the day, make the sign of the cross again and know that you are still the Lord’s because of Jesus. And dare to be Lutheran too, remembering that October 31 is also the day that the Reformation began, the time when Martin Luther reminded the church that Christ was the big deal and that superstitions, even if they’re in the church, are still silly and useless. And who needs to be afraid of such things when we have such a Savior who has redeemed us, purchased and won us from all sin, death and the power of the devil? So Happy Halloween! Happy because you are a baptized saint in Jesus.
Rev. Mark Buetow is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Quoin, IL. He is also the Media Services Executive for Higher Things and creator of the Bible 101 video series.