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Halloween…a celebration of imagination and community… a moment when we teach our children to beg for sweets… or an ancient pagan ritual?  Perhaps Halloween is all the above.  In 2021, Americans spent over 10 billion dollars on their Halloween celebrations, marking October 31st as one of the most celebrated holidays in our country.  But most Americans have no idea what the roots of this celebration are.  Over 2000 years ago, Celts, who lived in the United Kingdom, Ireland and northern France, celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in) on October 31st.  On this day, the Druids believed that the veil between the living and the dead was lifted, and the spirits of the dead could walk on the earth.  To combat the darkness, they lit large bonfires to light the night.  They would wear masks to hide their identities and play tricks to scare away the spirits.  If all these actions did not work, the people would leave sweet treats at their door to appease the spirits so that they would be left alone.  Do you see the roots of our modern-day celebrations in these ancient Druid practices: mask wearing, costumes, and trick or treating? Every year Christians participate in these pagan practices without ever realizing their meaning.
In the 8th century, Pope Gregory decided to reclaim the day from the pagans.  How could Christians combat the darkness of these Druid practices?  What could be stronger than the forces of darkness?  Pope Gregory decided that the saints of God would be the right antidote.  Who better to stand against the forces of darkness than the saints of God?  Pope Gregory established All Saints Day on November 1st, a celebration of those who have gone before us into the Church Triumphant.  With the establishment of All Saints Day- the day to celebrate those who are “hallowed”- October 31st became All-Hallows-Eve… the day before we celebrate those who are hallowed.  In modern parlance we now call that day Halloween.
The Saints of God versus the Spirits of the Dead- I think I would put my money on the Saints of God!  This competition of saints and spirits resonates with our modern experience of the battle of good and evil that seems to be raging in the world today.  Everywhere we look, the battle seems to be raging:  a pandemic cycling the globe; cancer striking our loved ones; extreme weather decimating communities with fire, wind, flood waters and draught; addiction invading our families and stealing away our loved ones; communities divided and a nation at war with itself.  One battle after the next, the challenges seem endless.  In the face of the brokenness of this world, it is hard to imagine what/ who could win the victory.  We have seen brave people step into the fight on our behalf and we are grateful for their sacrifice.  At times we see a glimmer of hope in a moment of victory.  But when we stand back and look at the landscape of our world today, it would be easy to conclude that we are losing the battle.
But today, I claim the One who is the Savior the world.  St. Paul wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome.  Imagine the challenge of being a Christian in Caesar’s hometown, when Caesar was intent on ending the Christian church.  The suffering of those Roman Christians was intense.  To those caught in the brokenness of the world, Paul wrote:
If God is for us, who can be against us?  
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine
or nakedness or danger or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loves us.

Romans 8:31,35
One of my favorite hymns as a child was a good old Baptist song- Victory in Jesus.  Today, I claim His victory over the brokenness of this world.  Our God is greater than the one who is against us.  Our God is in our midst creating what Revelation describes as New Heaven, New Earth. (Revelation 21:1)   Jesus is bringing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  The last several weeks as our church has served in various missions for Church Has Left the Building, I have seen our people standing with Jesus, sharing in His redeeming work.  We are called not only to claim His victory, but to be part of God’s work in the world.  It is my great joy to stand with you today, in the name of Jesus, as God’s mission to the world He so loved!

With you on the mission field,

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