A pagan holiday? What to do?

27 Oct

It is the very nature of God to take something that is completely opposed to His way and reconcile it to Himself, so that it begins to reflect Him.  This is a truth that mandates that, as Christians, we attempt to transform culture.  One of the ways this has been done by Christians historically is through holidays.  But with each holiday comes a unique set of issues that people have with that holiday.  I will start by saying that noone should adopt my philosophy on most holidays.  I’m just weird.  I don’t really like to celebrate my birthday, I celebrate like crazy some aspects of Christmas and am surprisingly melancholy about others, and I really am a curmudgeon when my wife expects me to want to, reasonably so, celebrate many different holidays.

Needless to say that most of my friends will see that I am writing about a holiday and just pass it off as West being an idiot, which may, in fact, be the case.  And many friends will probably skip the reading of this article, which may be appropriate.  But with that pretty big disclaimer in mind, I will attempt to write about one holiday I love to celebrate.  That Holiday is Reformation Day.  It is October 31, and it is the celebration of the commencement of the Reformation.  Those of us who live today owe a great debt of gratitude to those Christians who came before us and established a church that is anchored in theology and the priesthood of all believers.  One of the reasons we can see so clearly theologically (relatively speaking) is because we are midgets standing on the shoulders of giants.

Most holidays have elements that some people complain about which show the origins being pagan.  These people will say that Christians who celebrate the holiday are making a mistake.  These very actions are, in one respect, a perfect illustration of our Christianity.  The fact that we, as Christians, have taken the Soli Invicti and made it seep into the consciousness of our world that the holiday should be to celebrate the coming of Christ is awesome.  The fact that the Astronomical Vernal Equinox can be used to celebrate the Resurrection in lieu of just being a way to derive your horoscope is phenomenal.  And in at least one of the cases, there is significant doubt as to whether the celebration lines up with the proper season historically.  Nevertheless, these are things where we can take otherwise godless events and turn them into celebrations of our faith.

Almost all holidays have many secular events surrounding them.  Some aspects are terrible, while many others are innocuous.  I don’t want to get into that blame game at all, but I do want to assert that many of the traditions of Halloween are clearly not honoring to the Lord. Wherever the Lord directs your conscience in terms of the other components of Halloween is fine with me, as He is much more qualified to direct your paths than I am.  But I do think that, as Christians, we have neglected our opportunity to turn this holiday into a more Biblically-centered event.  The Reformation is largely the event that allowed us each to have Bibles in our own language and in our own house.  These are worthy of celebration!  The lives of Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, and Calvin, to name a few, have a profound impact on our ability to worship Christ today.

As a huge celebrant of Reformation Day, I think this holiday is our opportunity to seep into the awareness of our culture today that the real meaning behind October 31 is a Christian cause.  Whatever death, skeletons, gore, violence, or viciousness the world might have; people could believe and know that the real meaning of the holiday is one of the recognition of the Priesthood of All Believers.  The test for everything in my life should be, “Does this action further the cause of Christ?”  and “Am I doing this to glorify Christ?”  And I think we could all further the cause of Christ’s fame a little better by our celebration of Reformation Day.

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8 Responses to “A pagan holiday? What to do?”

  1. Anonymous October 30, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    So, is it pagan?

  2. PCBO October 31, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Bless anyone, Matt, on a campaign to elevate Reformation Day in importance among Protestants,especially Reformed. I agree that participation in various holidays belongs in the realm of conscience and your grace comes through. One question I would have is related to having just finished Gilbert and DeYoung's new book What Is the Mission of The Church. They assert it is not our mission as believers to, as you put it, transform culture. I am inclined to think at this point at the very least that our witnessing to the gospel has powerful potential to influence culture for the better if not completely transform it as a result of doing our mission. Any thoughts?

  3. Jenni November 4, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    This is my favorite blog so far!! I love what you are saying, and you say it well. I could delve into all the aspects of this that I think are great, but I think I will just save that for our next phone conversation. 🙂

  4. Kelley November 18, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Very well said, cousin Matt! It was refreshing to hear your perspective. Up here in the hills Halloween is a bigger deal than Christmas…big blown up pumpkins, witches and bats in yards that light up and spin, etc, etc….

  5. Anonymous July 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    As a Christian I don't think any holiday of Pagan origin, or otherwise, should be celebrated. Even though the Paganistic customs were long ago, the passing of time should not make them ok. Christians readily celebrate holidays that were steeped in sexual perversion, haunting spirits or the sacrificing to idols; whereas if they would do just a little research would see their beginnings.Jesus showed both his deep love for his followers and the importance of his words about staying separate from the world: “You are no part of the world.” (John 15:19) Clearly, it was of great importance to Jesus that his followers keep separate from the world! If we say we're Christian, we should do so through and through.

  6. AskThePhatMan July 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    John 15:19 is about why the world hates us, (“…because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you”), but it comes right after the command to love one another (both in verse 12 and 17). I am not sure that our love for others and their responsive hatred to us has anything to do with us needing to withdraw or separate.If we participate in nothing that had pagan roots, we would not use a piano, use an organ, look at any art work with a luminous circle above a head, use the word "pews," build crucifixes, celebrate Valentine's Day, place a baby in a manger, wear suits or ties, or eat breakfast among many other things. One could argue (and I would) that since we are all at conflict with God until we are born anew, then we ourselves have Pagan origin.God takes us when we are terribly unrighteous and unworthy of anything lovable and turns us into saints for Him. It seems like we should duplicate His nature and rather than just disregard those things of pagan origin, we should transform them, so that they point others to Christ, just like our lives.

  7. Judi-CAJ October 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    This is one of my favs as well Matt, and you put it well. I read recently that Halloween is now the 2nd most celebrated American Holiday, after Christmas. I think that is kind of sad, yet not so surprising, given the things our culture finds so acceptable on a daily basis. The 'holiday' just always creeped me out….though I do creep out easily. So many of our holidays have been so commericalized that I imagine few people even think of the real reason for any day of celebration any more. I've been studying up for my upcoming student trip and it is so neat to keep reading -Reformation- in almost every place where I am looking up something in Europe. Thank goodness for it! We should think of it far more often than we do! Midgets on the shoulders of giants…for sure!

  8. Mara October 31, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Having a new little one we now have to decide are we going to celebrate Halloween in our house or not…… Thank you for this! Growing up we went to church, dressed up as Bible characters and played tons of games. It was so fun and I never thought I missed out on Halloween going door to door.

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