What joy for those you choose to bring near, those who live in your holy courts. What festivities await us inside your holy Temple. (Psalm 65:4, NLT)
Today is not only another Thirsty Thursday, but it is also another cold and rainy Halloween in West Michigan. For some people, this day means figuring out creative costumes, loading up the kids in the minivan, and finding that perfect neighborhood that hands out great candy without being too weird about it. For others, it means attending a fun costume-party somewhere with friends. For me, it usually means arguing with myself. Am I am going to do what I want to do (turn out the lights, hide in the dark and just let the doorbell ring), or should I dig down deep within myself to go buy a bunch of candy, and stand ready by the door with a smile on my face and a treat in my hand for anyone who happens by. Walmart, here I come!
I know, that sounds pretty cynical, right?
I guess I’m just not a fan of Halloween. It’s not so much that I oppose it on some deep spiritual level…it’s more that I just don’t get it. Now, I know there are a bunch of you that love this whole trick-or-treat deal, and that seems pretty harmless. And I have lots of friends who take this opportunity to intentionally reach out and connect with neighbors and strangers in creative and positive ways. But I also know that there are still actual pagans and wiccans that celebrate tonight in very “spooky,” and spiritually dark ways. So I always have to wonder, what Halloween party have I been invited to this year?
Halloween is actually the beginning of Allhallowtide, or “The Feast of All Saints.” It was originally a holy feast designated by the early church to commemorate Christian saints and martyrs on All Saints Day (Nov. 1), and then to remember all the rest of the faithful departed Christians on All Souls Day (Nov. 2). That it coincides with various pagan calendars is evidence that the ancient church was intentionally striving to redeem the culture around it; that we embrace the spookiness of various pagan practices might be evidence that the modern church has become comfortable embracing the culture around us.
No one I know reads Psalm 65 at their Christian OR Pagan Halloween party. But David’s beautiful song is an encouraging and hopeful message to all the would-be saints on All Hallows Eve. David begins:
“Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.” (Psalm 65:1, NIV)
One can picture a procession of faithful Israelites, singing this song as they draw near to the Temple in Jerusalem, anticipating the joyful, enthusiastic worship to come. But we might also imagine the continual procession of God’s saints entering into His eternal glory. Who are these saints and what are they celebrating? They are those who received God’s forgiveness when they were overwhelmed by sin (vs. 3); they are the blessed ones whom God chose to bring near to Himself, and to fill with every good thing from His house (vs. 4). They are celebrating the God who is “the hope of all the ends of the earth” (vs. 5); the Creator of mountains and the One who brought peace out of turmoil (vs. 6-7). They are singing their song of praise to the Lord of the harvest, the Provider of the feast, and the Source of their eternal joy (vs. 9-13).
Maybe that interpretation of Psalm 65 is a hermeneutical stretch, but this day—Halloween—I want to picture that procession of saints and souls. On this day when we are invited to imagine ghosts and ghouls and goblins wandering around in dark corners of the world, I want to envision the saints, past and present, that once wandered in darkness but have now seen the glorious light of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:2-7; 1 Peter 2:9-10). I want to follow in that long train of souls who have passed through the season of fear and entered a season of thanksgiving, joy, and celebration. “Praise awaits God, in Zion,” and God awaits his saints with open arms.
That’s the procession I’m in; it’s the best Halloween party I could be invited to. How about you?
Whatever your Halloween plans are…whatever this day holds…remember there is someone who holds you. God has invited you to the best party ever, and you are already on the way. Jesus has made it possible. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the Living Water…stay thirsty for Him!
Listen to this great All Saints Day hymn, “For All the Saints”