Christians have an incredible history. We have not always done everything right, but we have some incredible brothers and sisters who have gone before us and done incredible things in history. Every year we have a chance to remember these saints who have gone before us, and lived for Jesus. That day is All Saints Day (and the night before All Hallows Eve, or Halloween).
I have made a joke that great costumes for kids would be to dress up like their favorite martyrs. Yep, trick or treat – there is John the Baptist – dressed in camel’s hair, locusts on his shirt, and head cut off. Do you give John candy? (Would he call you a brood of vipers if you don’t?)
But seriously, this is a great time to tell our kids and remind ourselves of Christian history, and of the lives of people who have lived for Christ – Athanasius who fought for the truth and was exiled again and again, Justin Martyr who wrote a book defending Christianity and was killed for his faith, Joan of Arc who followed Christ and led France to military victory – only to be burned at the stake as a heretic. These stories and more – these are Christians. We can pass on these stories, and remember them. (Do a search on the internet to find more stories.)
This is also the perfect day to remember people in our own families who have loved Jesus. There are some in my family who have served as pastors and missionaries. There are others who have been the only Christian in their families – I have the Bible of one of my great-great aunts who was one of the few of her siblings to believe, and her parents were nominal Christians. She passed that Bible on to her niece, who was also a strong Christian – my grandmother. These are stories to remember, and share. This is a season to be strengthened by the past.
This is a season to not be afraid of death. That is part of the strength of All Saints Day – we remember that these brothers and sisters overcame death in Jesus’ name. This is not a day to be afraid – this is a day to look at Death itself and say, “You have been beaten. I am not afraid of you.” Those who have died in Christ are alive today – and praising Jesus as we speak. We can remember the story of Perpetua and Felicitas – a noblewoman and her slave, both Christians and both pregnant – who were arrested for being Christians. They both gave birth in prison – and Perpetua’s father (not a Christian) begged her to recant her faith. She told him that she could not be called something she was not – being a Christian was her identity. They gave up their children and accepted their punishment – to die for Christ. They were led into the arena in Carthage in AD 203 – whipped, mauled by beasts and bleeding. They held each other as sisters – noblewoman and slave – showing that Christianity goes beyond social lines (unheard of in the Roman world) – and the gladiators came and killed them with the sword. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/martyrs/perpetua.html
These are stories to remember. We all go through hard times – but we stand in the line of heroes of the faith who remind us to be heroes in our own time – to pass a legacy on to those who will come after us. Happy Halloween!