Last week as I was scrolling through FaceBook (something that I admit I do far to often) my timeline was filled with pictures of pumpkins, fancy dress costumes and debates as to whether families should be Trick or Treating at all this year, because of the ongoing pandemic. It seems that like Christmas, Halloween has become quite commercial and a bit of a big deal for the secular world, but what does this mean to Christians?
Although I grew up in a secular home, trick or treating was not something we did. I have two memories of Halloween as a child, the first is my Dad coming home from work absolutely covered in flour, having chosen Trick when a group of youths shouted Trick or Treat at him in the street! The second was of my brother nagging my Mum for a Pumpkin lantern, just because his friend had one. My ever-resourceful Mum, cut a pumpkin face out of the sugar puffs box, turned the lights off and put a candle behind it-that was as far as our family went with Halloween!
Fast forward a few years and I had children of my own, as I had never celebrated Halloween before I decided that we would continue to just ignore this festival, that was until I came to faith! My first Halloween as a Christian I was actively discouraged from joining in with Halloween by some people around me, I wasn’t really sure why but actually that fitted in with what I had always done, so that suited me just fine!
As my children got older they wanted to join in, again not really sure of the roots of the festival we adapted it to suit our family-for quite a few years we celebrated “Happy-ween” always looking at ways to celebrate the light, staying at home dressing up and giving out sweets to those that came to our door.
Over the years I have had many conversations with other Christians about Halloween, for some it is a time to shut the doors and ignore all that is going on outside, it is seen as a celebration of darkness and all things scary (hardly surprising seeing the costumes and films that are all out at this time) and it is something that we should have no part of, indeed, this is the impression I had that first Halloween as a Christian.
As a Christian I now see Halloween as a great opportunity to evangelise, what other time of the year do your neighbours knock on your front door in droves, asking for you to give them a treat? What better gift can we as Christians give, than sharing the Good News and Love of Jesus Christ? I know this year was different, in fact we didn’t have anyone knock on our door, however there will be other years and other opportunities, this year as a church we provided bags of light to Children in the community. I pray that next year this will grow further, and we will welcome the community to a light party at St Andrews!
Now all of this is great, but we still have not got to the roots of Halloween and this season of Remembering.
The word Halloween is a contraction of All-Hallow-Even-All Hallows Eve, this is the night before All Saints Day. There are two theories for the origin of the secular festival as we know it.
A Christianisation of Samhain, a Gaelic pagan festival or observing the vigil of a great festival of the church beginning the evening before-All saints on 1st November.
Regardless of the possible influence of Samhain, it is important to note that for about 900 years Christians have been observing the beginning of All Saints Day beginning on the evening of 31st October (That is far longer than our retail giants have been selling us costumes, sweets and pumpkins!)
In Yesterdays sermon Revd Jane spoke about Saints, those who we celebrate on feast days and as the New Testament meaning of the word, a group of believers in Christ. the video is on our Facebook page and YouTube channel as, it really is worth a listen.
I had been pondering Saints over the last few days, and after yesterday it felt right to use this week of reflections, to discover more about those saints who we may have heard of, but not really know a lot about.
I often use the Lectio 365 App as part of my time with God each day, this morning they spoke about Alphonsus Rodríguez, a man who’s feast day is October 31st. Born in 1533 in Segovia Spain, he had a hard life and felt like failure. At the age of 40 Alphonsus tried to join a Jesuit monastery, they turned him away for being too old! Instead he was sent to a Jesuit college in Majorca, where he served as a porter and a doorkeeper for the rest of his life-never promoted or priested, yet Alphonsus turned door keeping into a sacramental duty. Every time the doorbell rang, he would say. “I’m coming Lord” and then welcome the visitor as Christ Himself.
Over the years countless young priests came through the doors, enjoying opportunities and privileges that he had been denied, and he welcomed each one lavishly without any hint of resentment, many of them turned to him for spiritual counsel.
One of these young priests, Peter Claver encouraged the then 72-year-old Alphonsus to embark in an adventure to South America where he would work tirelessly for the rest of his life, caring for slaves. Peter Claver was later recognised as a saint for his heroic efforts as ‘The slave to slaves’ and Alphonsus Rodríguez was also made a saint, canonized for his own brand of quiet heroism expressed in a life of humility, hospitality and friendship that changed the world!
What an amazing man Alphonsus was, yet I should think he spent his life being overlooked as he quietly and obediently got on with doing what he could, where God had placed him.
We can so often overlook the difference we can each make as individuals, but we are the body of Christ we are all placed where God wants us to be. Yes we can make plans for the future, or look back and learn from the past, but what is important is what we do now, it may not be what we hoped to be doing (I am sure that is true for many of us, more-so than ever at the moment) but we all have something to offer, so whatever that doorbell may be for you, wherever you find yourself, when it rings, are you ready to respond by saying ‘I am coming Lord’?
Take a few moments today to reflect on where you are, and how your day to day activities that may seem small and maybe even mundane, can make a huge difference and bring glory to God.