Commentary by Michael VandenBurg
As I write this, I am awaiting the onslaught of young children, all dressed in costumes, from Superman to Dracula, Princess Ariel to a dragon. It is Halloween, or the Day of the Dead in other cultures, or as it was centuries ago, All Souls Day Eve (all Hallows-een). Each originally paid respect to departed ancestors as well as to the souls of loved ones who died over the past year.
This time of year, when the seasons change, darkness becomes much more of our norm, and the world around us is filled with signs of death in leafless trees, dying plants and bitter cold. They are reminders of our own mortality. These holidays were each attempts to acknowledge and pay respect to the dead before us and were our tip of the hat to our death, whenever that may come.
In the Gospel of Luke, we read of the prophet and law-giver Moses, encountering God in a burning bush that is not consumed by the fire. But Luke makes a grammatical observation, that the God of Moses, as well as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not the God of the dead, but instead the God of the living. In it, he notes the text says, “I am” the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not “I was” the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All of these saints of God are still alive with him.
This gives us great hope as we can anticipate not an eternity of darkness and gloom illumined only by our fears, but in God, an eternity of light, hope, laughter, love, peace and joy. God tells us in his revelation to the Apostle John that there will be a new heaven and a new earth that will recover the perfected glory of the original creation.
Halloween in eternity will become an unnecessary and unwelcome holiday as we will see no more dying, no more tears, no more illness, no more darkness, no more fear. We will face the future with hope and love and will walk with God in person, not merely in memory.
Halloween, Day of the Dead, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, until redemption comes, will remind us of our own mortality and honor those who have gone before us. But when God brings about his new creation, we will no longer have any need of these holidays. So I hope you enjoyed the night of ghosts and goblins, super heroes and super villains and the sweet treats that the night brings. But I also hope that you will look for the new life to come in the God of the living, not the dead.