For all the Saints

What is today?  For most people, it’s the day after Halloween.  That’s true whether or not you’ve enthusiastically celebrated the event, attempted to create an alternative or desperately sought to avoid it.  However, that’s quite ironic because Halloween is a contraction of “All Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve. We say “Happy Halloween” but not “Happy Christmas Eve.”  We don’t wish people a special day before Bonfire night or a joyful Easter Saturday.

What has happened is that the customs, traditions and superstitions associated with the evening before the original feast day have taken over. Perhaps that’s because we don’t really know what to do with the feast day itself and what it stands for. That’s of course understandable for dissenter free church types like me who don’t generally mark special occasions in the church calendar.

So, I’m not going to ask you to start marking our All Saints’ Day anymore than I’m going to suggest we mark the various saints days throughout the year.  However, I thought it might be worth our while to have a quick look at what this feast day was supposed to be all about.

To some extent it seems that the feast historically functioned like a kind of catch all, Saints Day, a bit like the tomb of the unknown soldier or the altar in Athens to an unknown god, this might be seen as the “and anyone we missed” day after we’ve remembered Patrick, Andrew, George and David. It was a festival giving thanks for the lives of those who had been martyred for their faith.

However, if there’s a risk that the occasion becomes a catch all, there might be something helpful for us to pause and consider here.  If we remember that we are all saints, that the word was not originally meant to designate special, top tier believers but all who have been set apart for Christ, then All Saints Day should be  about every saint or “every believer.

And whilst we do not need special festivals and holidays, I think it is good to remember from time to time that we are just one small part of God’s bigger, greater church. This reminds us that we are united with believers around the world who are suffering for Christ right now just as we are united with believers who are experiencing a great outpouring of the Spirit in revival.  It reminds us too that we are part of the church through history, that there are those who have gone on before us and are now part of that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on.

So  why not take a moment today (and on any other day you fancy) to give thanks to God for his church and that he has brought you into his family. Thank him for those who suffered greatly so that we might be able to hear and read the good news in our language and have freedom to worship God.  Praise him for those who were faithful witnesses to you leading to your trust in Jesus.

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