Casting Out Spirits - Should Christians Celebrate Witches and Ghosts?Once again the Philistines gathered against Israel, and Saul was afraid. He asked the Lord what to do, but got no answer. So, what did he do? He went to a woman that had a 'familiar spirit' so he could ask Samuel - the man of God who had already died - what to do.
Saul, weak, disloyal, prideful and afraid, coaxed a woman into doing something against his own decree. It's apparent that, while witches and wizards and seers had been told not to practice their black magic, they hadn't been removed from the land, and so she did as she was asked and called Samuel up from his grave. Samuel knew that God had turned away from Saul, as Saul had turned away from God. We don't even have to wonder why. A man who so quickly turns to receive answers from a familiar spirit in lieu of the Lord God has problems with loyalty.
How loyal are we, each of us? Have we set a decree against the 'familiar spirits', but not removed them? Have we denounced the activity in our lives of witchcraft, ouija boards, 'new age'... then called them up by flagrantly displaying plastic bats and cardboard witches' hats on Halloween?
Halloween, formerly Hallow Evening, started out to be called the 'Death of the Year' by the Celts, hundreds of years ago. They believed that on that day, ghosts of the dead returned to haunt those who hadn't given them proper remembrance and worship. These ghosts came in the form of bats and owls and ghouls and goblins, flying through the night, angrily causing terror and destruction wherever they went, and not only to those who were guilty. Those unfortunate enough to have to venture away from home, light, and family, carried candles within hollowed out turnips which had been carved with frightening, scowling faces, in the hopes of keeping away these angry spirits.
When Christianity reached the area, the Church used this pagan holiday, as it did so many others, for it's own good. Instead of simply being 'haunted' by ghostly evil, the Church decided to celebrate the lives of those were especially worthy of remembrance. Martyrs were 'sainted' - made worthy of human worship, and the day was a celebration of their sacrifice for the cause of Christ.
Eventually, the day became All Saints Day, a day set aside to remember and worship all those made saints by the church (not all martyrs), but soon the original reason was remembered and an additional day was added the day after, further watering down the original meaning. 'All Soul's Day' is the day to remember those 'who've gone before us', a time of respect and remembrance of our loved ones, much the same as Memorial Day in the US. Thus 'Halloween' is 'Hallow Evening', the day before the celebration of the dead.
No big deal, right? Other pagan holidays were taken over by the church and 'christianized' - Christmas and Easter come to mind. The one difference between those holidays and Halloween - and it's a big one - is that many of us don't celebrate the Christian version of it; we simply go along with the world, with it's haunted houses and ugly costumes.
Oh, I hear you. You don't allow your children to dress up as witches or ghosts. You trick or treat for UNICEF. You walk right past the displays of ugly masks and eerie costumes. Your kids won't feel left out, though. You go to a nice Halloween party at the church.
Did you know that decorating with flying bats on strings is symbolic with dead souls gleefully loosed from 'the underworld' to cause pain and suffering on the living? And that jack o'lantern's are to frighten away those same evil spirits?
If this is such a Christian celebration as the church wanted to make it, why then do we still used symbols of witchcraft and demons? Could it be, that, like Saul, we've denied the actual practice of these things, but we've yet to cast them out? When was the last Halloween you gathered your family in thankful prayer for those who've gone before us? Maybe it's time for the church to really take over Halloween. Not just deny and denounce the evil of the day, but cast it out, and thank God for those who have died to bring us the good news of our salvation.