“Here I Stand”

Today is the second largest commercial holiday in the United States, second only to Christmas.  Where did Halloween come from?        

         About 2000 years before Christ, The Celts of the British Isles celebrated Samhain on November 1 as their New Year’s day, end of harvest, and beginning of the dark time of the year.  It was considered a “thin place” or time when the boundary between the material and spirit world could be crossed.  The ghosts of dead people could visit the living.  Large bonfires were built and sacrifices offered to appease these spirits.  By 43 CE Romans had overtaken the British Isles but they too had celebrations that became incorporated with the Samhain celebration of the Celts.  The Roman holiday, Pomona, celebrated the passing of people.   The symbol of the goddess Pomona was the apple (bobbing for apples?). Those two celebrations combined. In 609 CE Pope Boneface IV declared May 19 as the day for the celebration of the lives of martyrs.  This date was moved to November 1.  By the 9th century All Saints Days was firmly established as November 1.  The “eve of All Saints Day” or Halloween was October 31.  Costumes were worn in these celebrations to hide from the spirits of the dead who were believed to roam around seeking “treats” or threatening “tricks.”

         On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the Wittenberg church door calling for public debate.   He opposed the belief that the dead could return to life and seek help in their after life.  He opposed indulgences as acts of good deeds to help the dead spend fewer years in purgatory.  He opposed the authority of the Pope in selling indulgences.  Last week we pondered “Grace alone,”faith alone,” “Scripture alone, “Christ alone” and “Glory to God alone,” the pillars of the reformation.  We are saved by God’s grace because God is good not because we become good. Faith is how we relate to God directly.  We do not have to go through in-between places like pergatory or saints. Scripture, is the ultimate authority and not councils and traditions that have contradicted each other.  And ultimately Christ is the only name that saves us by his work on the cross. The newly invented printing press spread Luther’s challenges and so the Protestant Reformation is dated to October 31, 1517.  Today we celebrate Reformation and Halloween.

         As Christians we do not believe we need to wear costumes to hide from evil.  We do not believe deceased ancestors return to play tricks on us.  We do believe evil was defeated on the cross.  And we certainly believe in welcoming the children in our neighborhood and getting to know people.  We need not fear for we know Christ is alive and that is not a trick.  It is a treat!  Blessings.

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