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Halloween or Reformation Day?

How wonderful in meaning are Paul’s words to Timothy as recorded in II Timothy 3:15 – “And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Equally meaningful are the same words as applied to our covenant children today.

For many years that same holy Scripture which they are privileged to read and study was hidden in darkness, and its glorious truths buried under superstitions and traditions of men. The Church, with rare exception, had no access to the Word of God – and little interest in it either. It was not until the sixteenth century that God raised up a man, Martin Luther by name, to lead the Church out of the bondage of Roman Catholicism into the liberty wherewith Christ had made it free. Such an event, so significant in the history of Christ’s Church on earth, should be observed and thought about by us who are the heirs of the fruits of that great Reformation.

What does October 31 mean to you? Does the name “Halloween” bring a quicker response than that of “Reformation Day”? What flashes through your mind – visions of witches…pumpkin faces…masks…tricks or treat? For most people this is truly the case. Halloween is celebrated by the world in just that way.

The name “Halloween” means hallowed or holy evening, and October 31 was called this because it came before All Saints’ Day. November 1 was set apart by the Roman Catholic Church early in the seventh century to honor all their saints, especially those who did not have a day named for them. But Halloween as the world knows it had its origin even further back in history. Among the early heathen tribes that inhabited Britain before the birth of Christ were the Celts. The men who exercised much influence in the tribes’ religious and civil affairs were priests called Druids. The Druids believed and taught that on a certain evening during the autumn festivals ghosts, spirits, witches, and elves roamed about with intent to harm the people. This superstitious belief has lost its ability to frighten this generation, but the pagan and heathenism customs have been carried over to the present-day celebration of Halloween. For that is the day when goblins, witches, and other weird specters make their hilarious appearance. What a foolish and meaningless day! In the schools of our nation, plans are made in advance to celebrate it to the full. Rooms are decorated with pumpkin faces, witches, and black cats. Parties are being arranged; costumes are being readied; masks are being purchased or made. Fathers are braggingly telling their children the glowing details of the pranks and tricks they used to pull off. Police look with dread to the coming of that evening when it seems as if all the evil spirits are actually out wandering on the streets. Communities, alerted to the incipient danger, rally to entice the youth to harmless parties. Adults stock up on candy, gum, and such to be ready to pay tribute to masked figures who shriek in threatening voices: “Trick or treat!”

Why are the people of God willing to let anything so essentially heathenish obscure an event as important and significant as Reformation Day? Are we not delivered from Roman Catholicism and heathenish superstition? Do we not have a calling also here to testify that we are the children of the “day,” not the night!

The observance of Reformation Day and its glorious implications begin in the home. The family should discuss the liberation of the Church and the unshackling of the Word of God. Stories of the personal struggle of Martin Luther and events leading up to his nailing the 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg, appeal strongly to the imagination of all of us. For a long time he had searched for favor with God, but this peace was denied him even in the seclusion of the monastery and despite self-imposed chastisements. With the discovery of the almost extinct Bible and his avid study of it, Luther was being prepared for his role as the great Reformer. The sale of indulgences and Tetzel’s shameless part in this traffic proved to be the spark that set off the Reformation.

Such interest engendered in the home can be built upon and enlarged in the school. Our Christian schools of today are making an earnest attempt to supplant Halloween with Reformation Day by educating the children in the proper celebration of October 31.

Various Young People’s groups in our denomination reveal that the Reformation has meaning for them also. As they gather together on that day in their mass meetings, they reiterate in songs and speeches the fruits of the Reformation; freedom from the vain and corrupt traditions of the Romish Church and a restoration of the Holy Scriptures to the church of Christ.

Yet there is need of constant reformation within the Church. She must continue to reform as long as she is on the earth. The knowledge of the truth grows…Calvin follows Luther, the Confessions follow the 95 theses, and so on. More time should be spent by every one of us in a sincere study of the precious Word of God, instead of catering to the flesh which would make things easier and not too deep or doctrinal. As sons and daughters of the Reformation, let us be zealous, watching over the truth, holding fast to what we have. The world may have its Halloween…the Church has its Reformation Day!