United Church of God

Letter From Ben Light - October 28, 2022

Letter From Ben Light

October 28, 2022

Pastor's Corner - October 28th, 2022

Next week, the world will celebrate Halloween. 

As with many worldly holidays, this particular holiday has been commercialized significantly and largely an excuse to sell candy, costumes, and apparently 9 foot tall mechanized skeletons based on recent trips to Home Depot and my drives around town. The choruses of, "it's special for the kids," and "it brings the neighborhood together" go up when you provide any sort of critique of this day, but it begs the question.

Should a Christian consider celebrating Halloween in any form, even it's more commercialized existence today?

Modern day Halloween traces it's origins back to a Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival of Samhain was considered to be the end of summer, and the harvest months of the fall - and began the dark and cold winter months that became over time associated with death. It was believed by the Celtic people that during the time of Samhain, the boundary between the world of the living, and the world of the dead became thin, and the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth.

As a part of the celebration of Samhain, large bonfires were built, where people came to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the various Celtic deities, and during the celebration of the festival, the Celtic people wore costumes, made of animal skins and heads, and attempted to utilize the power of the otherworldly spirits to tell each others fortunes. 

To complete the festival, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them from the coming winter.

Once the Roman empire conquered the majority of the Celtic territories in AD 43, the typical Roman fashion of combining their own festivals with the pagan festivals of the people they conquered took place. 

Two Roman festivals, Feralia, and the Festival of Pomona were incorporated to the existing celebrations of Samhain. 

Feralia was similar to Samhain in that it honored and commemorated the passing of the dead. Similar festivals continue to exist in cultures today around the world, Dia De Los Muertos in Latin American culture is one of these kinds of days. Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruits and trees, and her symbol was an apple. It is believed by most that this is the reason for the existence of the custom of bobbing for apples. 

When we get to the 600's AD, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Roman Pantheon in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic Feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western Church. Later, Pope Gregory III expanded the celebration to include all saints as well as martyrs, and All Souls Day was declared on November 2nd in 1000AD to commemorate the dead. The Catholic Church's goal was to replace the festival of Samhain, with something that was related, but Church sanctioned. 

All Soul's Day was celebrated with big bonfires, parades and dressing up as devils, saints, or angels. It was also known at this time as All Hallows, and the evening before it, the traditional night of the Celtic Samhain began to be referred to as All Hallows Eve, eventually etymologically becoming Halloween.

In the 1600's, the celebration became uniquely American as immigrants brought their varying beliefs and customs with neighbors celebrating the harvest through sharing stories of the dead, telling fortunes, dancing and singing. As time went on, mischief-making and ghost stories found their way into the celebration.

People began to dress in costumes and go house to house asking for food and money. This became what we know today as 'Trick or Treating'. Over time - this evolved to placating the neighborhood kids and their mischief-making by providing treats to prevent them from playing tricks.

Because of its association with the spirit world and superstition, ghosts, black cats, devils, skeletons, fortune telling, witchcraft and other aspects have become intimately associated with the celebration of Halloween

When we consider whether a Christian should partake in, or otherwise be a part of these celebrations, it's incredibly important to consider God's word on these topics:

In Deuteronomy 12, God gave His chosen people Israel the following instruction. Verses 1-4

"These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things."

He goes on in verse 29 to explicitly warn them against compromising with the gods of the land of Caanan.

"When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods."

The gods of the Celtic people are false gods, whom the people worshipped. Sadly, the Celtic people (Israelites in origin) largely lost track of their God, and learned the false gods of the lands which they dispossessed. That was a tradition that continued down through history.

They believed that the boundary between the the worlds of the living, and the souls of the dead thinned on this night and they could commune with and use the power of those souls to perform their Druidic rites. 

The bible explicitly teaches that man does not have an immortal soul. When we die, we know nothing--the spirit of man returns to God who gave it, and we sleep in the grave awaiting the resurrection. Any 'souls' which the druidic priests were communing with must then have been demonic forces, the sorts of evil spirits which were in place when Christ's ministry took place on this earth. 

When you take the entire package of Halloween and its origins - it's not difficult to conclude that there are no redeeming qualities to this holiday. It is a holiday which honors the demonic world, pagan gods, and the practice of witchcraft and our God wants us to have nothing to do with it from His words in scripture. 

Instead, we see that God has provided for His people with a series of Holy Days that illustrate His loving plan for mankind and the coming of the Kingdom of God that Christ preached. Godspeed that day!

I hope you have a wonderful Sabbath!

With Love,