2 Nov Sermon
| Halloween - Satan in Disguise
On Friday, as I came down from my apartment to go to work, I saw school kids dressed up in fancy dresses. I thought one boy was dressed up like Batman without the mask but on closer look, he was more like a witch or dracular. I then realise it was the day before Halloween and the boy was dressed up to go to school and I assumed there would be some party for the school kids too.As I walked pass our club house, I notice that they also had extravagant decorations for Halloween - carved out pumpkin heads, spider webs and witches on their flying rod etc .... Back at work, many colleagues were also talking about where to go after work to celebrate Halloween. Even at a time when the gloom and doom cast over the world due to the financial tsunami does not deter people from spending money on Halloween.It is true that in the past five to ten years, Halloween has caught on in many places of the world including Hong Kong.I remember when I was living in the US, on our first Halloween evening, gangs of young people from the neighbouhood came to knock on our door, playing 'trick-or- treat'. To the kinds, it was great fun and great achievement if they managed to take someone off-guard and scare them. From the second year, we would deliberate stay away from home or turned off our lights pretending that there was no one at hom. What really is Halloween and what does it mean to us Christians?Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.Video: The haunting History of All Hallow's Eve (Halloween).Video: Timothy Dickinson tells the intriguing tale of why we celebrate Halloween, and it's evolution from Samhain, an ancient Celtic Harvest Festival.The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.Halloween started as Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, visiting haunted attractions, carving jack-o'-lanterns, reading scary stories, and watching horror movies.
Today many people celebrate this event without knowing its origin. They need some excuses to have fun, to go out together, to socialise etc ... At school, kids do not know and do not care about the origin. They just dress up in some fun clothings and have games and a lot of fun. Harmless, innocent fun.So, the origin and the background of this day has to be made known so that Christians do not do what they should not do. They should not trade their loyalty to God for some fun.
In the New Testament
What does the Bible tell us about Satan? In the NT, Satan is mentioned by name 35 times. The breakdown of these references is: (a) the Synoptics, 14 times; (b) gospel of John, once; (c) Acts, twice; (d) Epistles (all Pauline and half of which are in the correspondence with Corinth), 10 times; and Revelation, 8 times (5 of which [2:9; 2:13; 2:13; 2:24; 3:9] are in the letters to the churches and not in prophetic portions [chaps. 4–22]). As popular as the designation Satan is, the name ho diabolos appears 32 times.There are additionally a number of titles given to him. For example, while John uses Satan only once (13:27), the preferred Johannine term for Satan is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31 ; 14:30 ; 16:11 ). This phrase parallels Matthew’s “the prince of the demons” and Paul’s “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4 ), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2 ), and “rulers of the darkness of this age” (12 ) (but not “rulers of this age” in 1 Cor 2:6–8 , which refers to human rulers [Carr 1976]). A Johannine parallel appears in 1 John 5:19 where the claim is made that the whole world is in the power of the Evil One. These references teach at least a modified dualism which is close to the Qumran picture of a titanic struggle between the Angel of Darkness and the Prince of Light.
John can claim, on the one hand, that Satan has already been judged (John 16:11 ), and that the prince of the world will be cast out when Jesus is crucified (John 12:31 , 32 ), and on the other hand, that the world is in the power of the Evil One (1 John 5:19).
These are not self-contradictory ideas. Rather, they suggest that for John, Jesus’ death and resurrection constitute a victory over Satan in principle; yet the implementation of this victory will be gradual, and yet awaits a climactic conclusion.If there are titles describing Satan’s power, there are also a number of titles that describe him pejoratively. He is an enemy (Matt 13:39 ); the evil one (Matt 13:38 ); a tempter (Matt 4:3 ; 1 Thess 3:5 ); an adversary (1 Pet 5:8 ); the father of lies (John 8:44 ); a murderer (John 8:44); a liar (John 8:44); a deceiver (Rev 12:9 ); an accuser (Rev 12:10 ); and one disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14 ).
Both John 13:27 and Luke 22:3 speak of Satan entering (eisēlthen ho satanas) Judas. The same vocabulary is used for the “entering in” of evil spirits in Mark 5:12, 13 and Luke 8:30–32 . Compare with this concept the reference in Mart. Is. 3:11:“Beliar dwelt in the heart of Manasseh and in the heart of the princes of Judah and Benjamin, and of the eunuchs, and of the king’s counselors.” Luke speaks not only of Satan entering Judas, but also of Satan’s desire to have Peter, that he may sift him as wheat (Luke 22:31 ). (Satan’s asking permission to “have” Peter is reminiscent of the satan’s request to God to remove the protecting hedge around Job.) Jesus, however, is Peter’s advocate (Luke 22:32 ) pleading against Satan the accuser. It is of interest that apart from John 13:27, Satan occurs in the passion narrative only in the Lukan account. Luke speaks of Satan the “enterer” and Satan the “sifter” in his gospel, and speaks of Satan “filling the heart” of Ananias and thus fomenting deception by Ananias in Acts (5:3). In several ways the NT makes it clear that Satan is not without limitations. 1. the intercession of Jesus stalls his designs on Peter (Luke 22:32). 2. he is a fallen being (Luke 10:18 ). 3. he is judged (John 16:11). 4. his power over a person’s life may be broken (Acts 26:18 ). 5. God may use Satan to chasten an apostate believer (1 Cor 5:5 ; 1 Tim 1:20 ). 6. His temptations, however potent, may be overcome and his ruses exposed (Matt 4:1–11 , and the only incident in the NT in which any of Satan’s words are recorded). 7. He may be resisted, just as Jesus resisted him (Eph 4:27 ; Jas 4:7 ; 1 Pet 5:8, 9). 8. The NT never refers to Satan as simply the prince/ruler (ho archon), but as “prince of devils” (Matt 9:34 ) or “prince of the world” (John 12:31 ). 9. At God’s discretion he is bound (Rev 20:2 ), released (Rev 20:7 ), and incinerated (Rev 20:10 ). |