For those who have read my previous articles about the Church calendar, you can read this as a continuation. For those who haven’t, you may still enjoy the principles involved here.
Another important consideration here is the relationship of the Church calendar to the victory of Christ’s kingdom. Christ is Lord and His dominion extends to all things, with not one square inch of creation outside of His authority. That is the reality. But, that reality is becoming increasingly realized in history with each passing day.
A part of that increasing realization is the reclaiming of the calendar. Unfortunately, some Christians think the best way to avoid the calendar questions is by giving up altogether. “Because,” they say, “someone in some civilization once observed that day with pagan significance, our only option is to act as if the day doesn’t exist.”
When this happens, it is never done so with any consistency. A Christian may want to shun Halloween (to be discussed later) but what do they do about Thursday (named for the Norse god Thor)? Do those same Christians refuse to acknowledge June (named for Juno, the queen of the Roman pantheon)? Would they refuse to have a meeting on Wednesdays (named for Woden, another Anglo-Saxon god)? Of course not, but even if they did, they would be missing the larger point of our responsibility to reclaim what is rightfully Christ’s possession.
All Saints’ Day, for example, was designed to counteract the pagan festival of Samhain. They included some of the same elements – giving of food, candies, and dressing up in costumes – but they intentionally emphasized honoring the saints (the great men and women of God gone before) in their celebrations, rather than the ghouls and spirits of the departed who were believed to come back on that night.
In other words, Samhain is now known as Halloween (which means All Hallow’s Eve or the Eve of All Saints’ Day) specifically because it has and is being reclaimed by the Church. Pagans don’t observe Halloween any more than they observe All Saints’ Day. They may observe Samhain, but that is a very different animal altogether.
Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg on October 31st because he knew it would be seen by the multitude of travelers coming to the church for the celebrations of All Saints’ Day on November 1st. Those days, Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day were taken from the pagans for the glory of God.
Are there people who observe them in ways that we find disturbing? Sure. There are people who fail to observe the Lord’s Day as well, but we have no right to abandon it completely in order to prove them right. By ignoring or abandoning days, we act as if Christ has no claim on them simply because someone, who we think is wrong, says so.
If someone actually claims to be observing Halloween by sacrificing a chicken around a bonfire in their backyard, you have a couple of options. First, you could vow to never observe Halloween again. Some have chosen this route, but the problem is that they are letting the pagan define the day. Halloween is called Halloween because it has been Christianized (again, Halloween literally meaning “All Hallows’ Eve” or Eve of “All Saints’ Day”). They might be observing Samhain but they are emphatically not observing Halloween.
Your second option is to celebrate the day as another example of Christ’s Kingdom advancing over the kingdom of darkness. What better way to do so than by making a day of joy and levity out of a day once used to celebrate the powers of darkness? It certainly beats letting your chicken-slaying neighbor determine the meaning.
Now, my point in bringing these things up is not to say that every Christian family must observe Halloween. There are, however a few points that we should take from this discussion.
1. Our Calendar Says Much about Us
Because all days are Christ’s, it is right that our calendar reflect that. We do not have feast days every day of the year, but it is appropriate that we adopt seasons of celebrations for the works and people of God to honor. And one of the benefits of doing so is that we model for the world that Christ is Lord.
2. Keeping or Not Keeping Days Is Never to Become an Issue of Division or Spiritual Pride
When it comes to those days that are debated among Christians for various reasons, we should remember to never let the pagans determine the significance of the day. Just as God instructed the Hebrews to “spoil the Egyptians” upon leaving Egypt, so we must take back what the world has attempted to highjack.
But, in doing so, we must also keep Paul’s admonitions from Romans 14 in mind: “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.”
As previously mentioned, Paul’s point is that the Jewish calendar was not to be required and that those who kept the day, if doing so for the glory of God, were not to be condemned; but neither were those who did not keep the day. “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” and, if I may add, not go on a campaign to do the convincing for others or establishing “camps” based on who keeps what. Nothing is quite so tragically ironic as seeing Christians divided over what should be a picture of the victory of Christ’s Kingdom!
3. Practice Charity in All Things
Philip Melanchthon, the right-hand man of Martin Luther was known for saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” This is a valuable saying that we need to apply here.
It is not essential to the faith that families observe all the days or activities that we do; therefore, we are to treat them with charity and grant them liberty. They can observe the day to the Lord, or not to the Lord.
Charity must dominate how we view our brothers and sisters. After all, if we think through the issue, failure to do so results in silliness. Do we really believe that those Christians who celebrate Halloween, for example, are somehow celebrating paganism? Really? Does the five-year-old who dresses up like a shepherd to get candy from the neighbors somehow become a reincarnation of a departed Celtic pagan or a ghoul? Were those who bought the meat offered to idols actually doing honor to the idols? Paul says no. But, neither should those whose consciences lean differently in this area be made to stumble or feel foolish for refraining.
“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:4-8).
“But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:10-13). Let us consider these things as we learn how to better honor Christ with our days.