Here is an interesting article from the WSJ on Halloween.
This is one of those holidays that has blown up, or the marketing machine and a willing public has gone along. As a kid it was at best a couple of hours. I’m sure there were, but I don’t remember adults getting costumed and partying. Now its almost worst than New Year’s eve. You can’t admit that you don’t have an Eve to go with your Adam costume or that its all a bit silly for anyone over 10…12?
But there is another side to Halloween. Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day. All Saints is high enough on the Christian calendar that the altar cloths go white. That places it on the same level as Christmas and Easter by the way! As a Lutheran it is also near what we celebrate as reformation day (when Luther nailed the 95 theses to that Wittenberg door). One of the results of the reformation shouldn’t have been the eclipse of All Saints, but a larger view as in the Protestant mind we can safely claim more saints.
Is Halloween the secular celebration of having outgrown all such superstition as devils and saints and God…or is it the collective whistling past the graveyard of a culture that can’t talk about such things or doesn’t want to be forced to? Can Halloween be a bridge to less silly things, or is that just selling out to the culture?
Christmas. One of the two days of the year that you have to have a good message. (The other is mother’s day by the way. On Easter you are preaching to the congregation anymore. On Christmas and mother’s day you still get a chance to preach to the unconverted.) On top of being good, it has to be short. On top of being short it has to carry off a tone. Film makers do this by shooting specific places and then blurring or making crisp the picture. For example, if they want to paint a tragically romantic scene they might take a picture of a late autumn forest and blur it a bit. The same spot made crisp might convey instead of tragic romance a lurking dread. 10 seconds of such a picture sets the tone.
The audience is probably coming into the service either exhausted, angry, nervous, lonely, or annoyed. That is what we do to ourselves around Christmas. And the service in that frame of mind is one more thing to get through. The goal of the Christmas sermon (and the entire service) is to take people from that negative place, and to move them to a much different view of Christmas. To admit that this state I’m feeling right now is a result of how messed up the world actually is because of sin, and to rest in the fact that God has provided a savior. The tone should be one of a giant exhale.
This sermon didn’t pull punches. That is usually what the Christmas sermon does. It forgets the law. It goes along with the culture and the charade of a perfect Christmas. It talks of love and warm fuzzies, but without acknowledging the real state of people’s minds and why they are that way. That sermon fuzzes out the bad stuff and because of that can satisfy at the moment but is without merit. It is complicit is painting the Christ out of Christmas. This one didn’t pull those punches, but hopefully balanced it out with the gospel.