Holiday$$$ or holy days?

November 5, 2007

by Pastor Steve Olson, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Dassel

I heard it first on the radio. The announcer said, “I saw Christmas decorations in the store. That must mean Halloween is near!”

It is a bit unnerving to see how one season rushes into another these days, but it is even more unnerving to see how holy days have been transformed into holiday$$$$, a sad shadow of what they were really meant to be.

Take All Saints Eve, or Halloween, as it has been passed down to us from the old English language.

All Saints Day is a festival of remembrance and faith as we celebrate the sure and certain hope we have through Christ Jesus our Lord. It is a big day for the church.

In fact, in the days of Martin Luther, it was one of the best-attended worship days of the whole year. That is why Luther chose All Saints Eve to nail his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. He knew that there would be big crowds to see it the next day.

Now, though, the big crowds hit the streets for trick or treating, with little, if any, understanding of what this night is meant to be.

Here in our churches, we join in saying “Wait a minute! There is more to Halloween, or more properly, All Saints Eve, than trick or treating and dressing up in costumes.”

To our community, we offer All Saints parties and celebrate All Saints Sunday. This is how we work to reform Halloween. We focus our efforts to bring the “holy” back into holidays, by focusing our remembrance on those who have gone before us in the faith and by celebrating our resurrection hope.

Another holiday in need of reformation is Thanksgiving. I am glad to say that our churches have a strong tradition of Thanksgiving Eve services. These services remind us that this civil holiday started out as a community event in thanksgiving for God’s blessings.

This is a reminder we really need because these days, Thanksgiving has become increasingly commercialized, with the day after Thanksgiving being one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Indeed, merchants refer to it as Black Friday because that is a point in the year when they really start to make their profits.

Then, of course, there is Christmas. If we want a wake-up call on what Christmas is about for our society, just ask a random sampling of children on the street. They will be more likely inclined to talk about the gifts they will be getting than about the gift God gave.

Taken altogether, this points out to me that we really do live in a post Christian era where holy days have been replaced, in most cases, by holiday$$$$. Commercialism is the new civil religion.

Yet that doesn’t mean we have to make it our religion. We can choose to keep the holy in the holidays by remembering why these days were set apart.

We can choose to gather for worship and to bring that worship into our homes. We can choose to welcome our Lord as the honored guest at all our festivities.

These are the choices Christians make, and that is what sets us apart in this holiday season. Instead of worshipping the lords of commerce, we worship the God of Creation and the Lord of Salvation.

So, during this holiday season, don’t get swept up in the commercial frenzy, but hold out for the real thing; the real peace, the true joy that is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.