Devotion from Pastor Tia Pelz of Christ the King for November 3, 2020:
I have long fought Halloween. Because it’s on Reformation Day and that means worship services in Germany. Usually in the evening, when everyone is out trick-or-treating. Pastors will hand out “Luther candy” and carve pumpkins with Luther’s rose. As a sign of protest. Of course, kids just avoid the parsonage.
The great question is: Should Christians oppose this originally pagan, crazily consumerist holiday? Not only most German Lutherans think so. Many Evangelicals in the U.S. agree as well. (Google it!)
Well, I don’t think we have to. On the contrary, I actually believe we have good reasons to embrace it. (And that’s not just a mom speaking who gave up on fighting her kids over trick-or-treating. This is also the theologian speaking. And the pastor.)
Our 11-year-old neighbor across the street set up a haunted front yard and performed a chicken-dinosaur-dance-fight every Friday and Saturday together with his friend. He has even been handing out treats for the last 6 weeks on those 2 nights. We don’t celebrate Halloween, it’s an entire season. It’s also been the main source of happiness for all the kids in our street for weeks. You’ve got to love it.
During the last weeks more and more skeletons inhabited our neighborhoods. Skeletons sitting at a table, playing cards. A skeleton hanging out on a bench in solitude, others guarding an entry. Death is never as visible and mocked as it is around this time of the year. Just before we remember our Saints, all the people who have gone before us and who we miss dearly.
To make death visible and mock it. That’s the most Christian thing in the world. Or like Paul writes:
“When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”(1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
I mean, isn’t that exactly what Jesus did at the cross and in his resurrection? He died the most public death, exalted on a hill, visible to everyone who felt like watching. And he took death’s sting and swallowed in up in victory. That’s what we celebrate at Easter every single year. (Maybe, it’s not a coincidence after all, that Halloween and Easter involve way too much candy for kids…)
And because we know that death doesn’t win over life, that death doesn’t separate anybody from God, we can celebrate All Saints. We mourn our loved ones and know that they are with God. We mourn lost chances and remember all the good times and wonder about the hard ones. And we trustingly put our memories in God’s hands. Assured, that God is stronger than death, that death can’t frighten us to death.
So, the mom and the theologian in me fully embrace Halloween. And the pastor agrees. Sure, it’s easy to grumble about money wasted on sweets. (But then, no money is ever wasted when it comes to candy.) But think of it: When else does the entire community (apart from some German Lutherans and Evangelicals) spend an evening together out in the streets. When else do our front doors swing open to so many strangers? And when else are so many gifts given out – often by strangers, to strangers – just for the sake of delight? At its best, then, Halloween portraits what “neighborhood” actually looks like. That alone is worth celebrating. And it’s probably what the dead would wish us to do. To have fun peacefully together for once. Stay sane, stay safe and go in peace, dear Saints, pastor Tia!