Two interesting occurrences will befall us this Saturday evening: Hallowe’en, and the changing of the clocks back to Standard Time. (Well, there is a third happening, which interests me more than the other two: my beloved Habs play on their home ice against the four-pointed Leafs that evening!) As a spiritual discipline, however, I will limit my thoughts to the first two matters.
There are divergent opinions on what followers of Jesus should do about Hallowe’en. Is it just an evening for kids to dress up and collect mountains of candy from trusted neighbours, or is it a celebration of all things evil? I think the answer to that question really depends on the individual’s perspective.
Hallowe’en is a shortened name for “All Hallows Eve”, which in the ancient and mediaeval church was (and, for many today, still is) the night before All Saints’ Day – a day when the Church remembers, with thanksgiving, those who have laboured for the Lord and have gone on to heaven. Like Easter, whose name and timing find their roots in a Christianized pagan feast, Hallowe’en stems from an ancient Celtic festival for Samhain, the lord of the dead. When the Romans conquered Celtic lands, there was some intermingling of practices. It was in 835 that All Saints’ Day was moved to November 1, and that’s when October 31 became All Hallows’ Eve (or Hallowe’en).
Some say Christ-followers shouldn’t have anything to do with an event that celebrates a pagan deity. And to be sure, there is a disturbing reality that goes with Hallowe’en among those who continue to follow the Celtic rituals. I won’t go into the details here, but there are practices that go along with the ‘religious’ side of Hallowe’en that would make you sick to your stomach (and would cause your spirit to recoil in horror).
Other believers see Hallowe’en as an evangelistic opportunity – a chance to share the light of Jesus on a dark night with people who willingly come to your door looking for goodies. With the candy you give, you could offer a printed message of good news and a blessing for those who come.
Still others see Hallowe’en as just a fun night for kids. As Christians, how can we make a fun night for kids into something that can be potentially life-changing? Pray about that one!
“Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 97.10, NIV).
How about the switch to Standard Time? (If you’re in Saskatchewan reading this, you may think this doesn’t affect you, but read on. When my wife and I were travelling through Saskatchewan this summer, we couldn’t remember whether their time equated with Alberta or Manitoba!) The use of Daylight Saving Time in the warmer months has its name as its purpose: to make the best use of daylight.
Again, this is a secular activity that has little spiritual bearing – or does it? Can God’s people make use of something as seemingly innocuous as the time shift to share the good news?
Maybe it’s too late for this time, but think about it: we shift the time because we want to take advantage of the light. What does the apostle John say? “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1.7, NIV). It’s simple, but it can have an impact. Give it some thought.
By the way, don’t forget to turn your clocks back on Saturday night after the Canadiens win the hockey game. You’ll get an extra hour of sleep, and you won’t find yourself arriving at worship on Sunday before the doors are unlocked!