I love this time of year!
The weather can vary widely where I live in south central Wisconsin. It could resemble anything from August to January. More often than not, however, late October offers fascinating reminders of the beauty of God’s creation. The sun glazes the fields as it rises at dawn, and then again as it sets just before dusk, delivering stunningly opulent rays of color. What a wonderful time to go for a walk! Deer and all manner of wildlife dance over a year’s worth of crops ready for the harvest—the signs, sights, sounds and smells of which are all around us.
Even the gloomy days are hauntingly beautiful, adorning the landscape with a medieval flare. I remember coming home from a ministry conference around this time several years ago and just pausing to meditate on the breathtaking beauty all around me. The “amber waves of grain”1 were overwhelming … tall and ripe—almost purple against the autumn sky. The scene drew me in, and transported my imagination back to the wonders of Octobers past. I have always been amazed, almost spellbound, by the sensations that October dependably supplies.
But I am not the only one. Others are constrained by different curiosities at this time of year. For many, this season is spiritually oppressive. We drive past their homes and see the allusions to darkness, death, torture, killing, ghosts, goblins—even hell itself. Witches and all manner of enchanters dance over a year’s worth of scheming and plotting, ready for their most holy day—the signs, sights, sounds and smells of which are all around us.
The ubiquitous reach of All Hallows’ Eve is evident even as we flip through the television channels and see the continuous flow of horror films all throughout this month.
I have always felt sorry for those who live for this time of year because of its connection to that which is dark, violent and deadly. Those things have never appealed to me. I pity those who sacrifice the beauty of this season, and would exchange it for the dimness of the underworld—all that flows “from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37) himself.
Perhaps it was a bright, sunny autumn day—before winter’s howling winds rolled across Saxony—when Oct. 31 was forever changed. Or, it might have been a hauntingly beautiful, gloomy day when that monk, professor and priest—who had all that he could take, quite literally, of a world filled with demonic darkness—illuminated Wittenberg (and soon all of Germany) with the beam from Scripture alone. On the last day of October, 1517, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4) became suddenly radiant—with immeasurable velocity, even violence—against the German landscape. Though he could not have fathomed it at that time, this pastor of St. Mary’s Church was about to unleash a flood of brightness upon the whole world, so immense that it still shines to this very day. Yes, after centuries of darkness, there would indeed, at long last, be light!
As Dr. Martin Luther strode toward the Castle Church to tack his 95 Theses to the wooden door, I can imagine him looking across the “amber waves of grain”2 that he could observe around Saxony. For once his heart was at peace, and with that peace came a newfound sense of gratitude and purpose.
You see, Luther had discovered that the demons that had plagued his soul for decades could not help but flee before the brilliant splendor of Christ. He finally came to comprehend how “the righteousness of God is revealed” (Rom. 1:17) through “the gospel” (Rom. 1:16). This righteousness is not something for us to dread but, rather, it is the free gift of God to be received by faith alone. It is a righteousness which God places into the register of the one who simply believes the gospel of Christ alone. He died for our sins, on the cross where each of us belonged, in order that we might be forgiven. We can live with Him forever because He rose to bring us life eternal! No amount of effort, no anguish of soul, no payment for indulgences, not even suffering in purgatory, can merit the grace of God alone—and the grisliest creature in hell can never “snatch [us] out of [our] Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Truly, “the power of God” (Rom. 1:16) displayed on Christ’s cross has the capacity to frighten hell itself:
Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Col. 2:15)
This disconsolate world will celebrate Halloween on the last day of October. What a pitiful counterfeit this is, compared to the true vibrancy of the day, which now and forever gleams as a testament to the One “who … [dwells] in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16).
After the darkness, light.
I love this time of year!
Soli Deo Gloria.
1 Katharine Lee Bates; “America the Beautiful.” Public domain. Taken from “America the Beautiful.” Hymnary.org, n.d. https://hymnary.org/text/o_beautiful_for_spacious_skies, Internet, accessed 26 October 2023.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, based in Columbus, WI, and serving in the Midwest. For more information on his ministry, visit sermonaudio.com/pscharf or foi.org/scharf, or email email@example.com.