Greet every saint in Christ. (Philippians 4:21a)
All Hallows Eve and All Hallows Day, perhaps better known as Halloween and the next day, focus on death. What we know of death is that our loved ones were one day present and the next no longer. We know we can no longer talk to them, no matter how cloven our hearts may be. We know where we might visit their bodies. And we know we miss them. Death hurts us.
We can understand the desire to retain some connection, ethereal though it may be, with our deceased loved ones. For centuries, November 1st has stood as a festival day in the church to give thanks for the faithful departed – those with faith in Christ who have died – to mark their lives and remember their witness for Christ. Early Celts appeased wandering spirits with treats. Latin Americans welcome dead children back into their homes for a night. Still others don masks to remain unrecognized by the terrorizing ghosts roving the glades. Death we strive to mellow, perhaps conquer.
Facing death, we see Jesus standing next to a young man’s funeral bier, beside a young girl’s deathbed, and outside a dear friend’s sealed up tomb. Our hearts ache in empathetic pangs when we hear of Jesus weeping and grieving deeply the loss of a loved one. We can commiserate with Jesus as He stops the funeral procession of the dead lad, grasps the lifeless hand of a little girl, and shouts to the dead ears of a dear friend. We get it. Perhaps we’ve been there ourselves. Our many and varied Halloween and All Saints Day festivities expose our deep desire to connect with the dead. It would seem we understand Jesus perfectly here.
But do we really?
We merely mask death’s dreadful effects with fragrant flowers, a good embalmer, a few pat words, and a celebration of life. But such do nothing to combat the sharp reality of death in a casket. We cannot stand up to death.
But Jesus can! Enmeshed in sickening sadness, Jesus stood up to death and backed it down. Touching bier, He restored a son to a grief-stricken mother. Whispering a happy command, Jesus returned a daughter to her dumbfounded parents. With a great shout He breathed life into dead Lazarus.
Jesus Himself had a brush with death. It seemed that which is inevitable for all even stamped out the Son of the Living God. Quite right . . . for a few short days. Jesus took back His life. Nowhere will you find the buried bones of this Man because He lives! Jesus shattered the power of death. Death’s now rheumatic grip is slackened. No longer need we keep vigil for a lost spirit or ward off the wandering ghosts of the past. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and trust His resurrection is the certainty of life restored, knowing that to all those we’ve said ‘goodbye’, we will one day soon again say ‘hello’. Look nowhere else for hope this All Hallows Day!
Lord of Heaven and Earth, fight off our enemies, especially death. Keep our trust in You. Give us a blessed end and welcome us into your kingdom. Amen.