Halloween isn’t celebrated in The Calling of Ella McFarland, but it surely is in our neighborhood.
Every October 31st, I envision the pagan rites from which our night of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls springs, and I wonder what place such images should claim in Christians’ minds. And in a neighborhood claimed for Christ.
At the ancient Celts’ festival of Samhain, people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. At one time animal and human sacrifices were offered on the bonfires.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs: All Saints’ Day. The evening before, All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween, incorporates some of the traditions of Samhain.
The night from October 31st to November 1st was a time “between years” to the Celts when the borders between this world and the other were flexible, allowing spirits of all sorts to interact with humans. To assure that one did not overstep a boundary or violate a taboo, many people chose to stay in their homes with doors securely locked. And so it is today. Invariably, certain homes in America remain darkened and locked on the scariest night of the year.
Reminds me of the ancient Jews in Egypt when the Death Angel passed over the homes marked by blood. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. (Exodus 12:23, NIV)
The Celtic pooka and bean sidhe (banshee) have given way to Halloween ghosts, goblins, and ghouls. And vampires.
I recoil at the sight of blood dripping from a vampire’s lips … but it reminds me that blood claims a major place in a Christian’s thinking. … the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22, NIV)
The difference lies in whose blood is shed and for what purpose. The proverbial vampire takes life. Jesus laid down His. The blood on a vampire’s lips feeds his evil appetite, turns what was good into evil, and stains what it touches. Jesus’ blood reconciles, cleanses, atones, redeems, and transforms evil into holy.
All of which brings me around to my granddaughter who at age 7 made an unexpected request. “May I have some paper without lines, please?”
With paper and pencil in hand, she disappeared into another room and reappeared with what she had copied, took it home, and displayed it in their kitchen: I asked Jesus, “How much do You love me?” “This much,” He answered, and He stretched out His arms–and died.
A ghoulish scene if there ever was one.
On this Halloween when dressed-up vampires, ghosts, goblins, and ghouls roam the neighborhood, I’ll remember Jesus is the Lord of our household, our neighborhood, city, and the world. And I’ll remind my grandchildren that the message of His love sacrifice transcends all the evil works of the world. And every pagan tradition.
Which is what will happen in homes and neighborhoods everywhere where Jesus is welcome. So celebrate on!
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates … (Deuteronomy 11:18-20, NIV)