The devils and ghost of Halloween remind us of the realities of sin, death and devil, but as the calender flips to November, so our thoughts turn to forgiveness and life eternal merited by the blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus. November 1st is All Saints Day, and this Sunday the church will be celebrating the work of Jesus for the Church Triumphant, that is all those who have gone before us in Christ.
It really is a shame that All Saints Day falls immediately after our late night sugar high that is Halloween. Such a beautiful, comforting holiday must not be overlooked! Thankfully we have a few days throughout the week to transition and prepare for All Saints Sunday by talking about what exactly it means to be called a "saint" and reflection on the reading, Revelation 7:9-17.
There is nothing as funny to a three-year-old as rearranging the seating assignments at meal times. Adelae loves to sit in my seat and play "mommy"! This week everyone knew exactly where to sit. I surprised them with All Saints Day place cards. Don't you love place cards? It's always nice to feel like you belong and know where you're suppose to be.
These cards can be made as simply or as extravagantly as desired. Pen and paper is all you need. Thicker paper works best. I chose some rag paper scraps because it seemed to best match our text, "...standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes..." (Revelation 7:9). I wish I had a fancy gold calligraphy pen, but even a simple marker would have worked.
Trim the paper to 3"x4" rectangles, one for each member of the family, and fold it in half. On each card write a family member's name with the title "saint" before it, along with a cross. We are saints, or "holy ones" because of Christ, who makes us holy through His work on the cross.
If you wish to embellish your place card further add a ribbon. I kept mine simple by just popping two hole punches on the crease, then working a gold wired ribbon through the holes, and trimming the edges to clean up the frayed ends caused by stitching it through the holes.
Each saint also has a white shell next to their place card to further match our reading, "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water" (Revelations 7:17). We are made saints, not because of our goodness, but because of His goodness and mercy poured out on us in our baptism of life giving water. Shells are a great prop to have on hand, a visual clue when talking as a family about baptism.
With such a fancy place setting you might be wondering what heavenly dish I prepared for dinner! We savored my favorite, leftovers! I suppose this is an appropriate meal, but only if I call them "planned-overs" in honor of one of our favorite saints remembered today, Grandma Secord.
Sadly, our children will never know their Great Grandma Secord, a fine and feisty Christian woman. Understanding her as Great Grandma, that is Daddy's mommy's mommy can get pretty confusing, but little Adelae is full of questions in trying to mentally put our family tree together. The truth is, she is so very lucky to have six of her eight great grandparents still living. All Saints Day is an excellent opportunity to remember those who have gone before us in the faith - all those sinners made saints in their baptism.
Today I gathered photographs of saints - both alive and part of the Church Militant, and those passed on into the Church Triumphant. I photocopied family pictures and found images of Adam, Moses, Mary, Luther and even our pastor, Pastor Lingsch, online and printed them out - all in black and white. We carefully cut around each saint's head "jib-jab" style.
We had to stop with about 20 saint heads, but could have had many, many more if we didn't limit the pictures to our immediate little family and grandparents. Next, I made a 20 fold accordion out of a long piece of white paper. Each fold was about 3" wide and 8.5" tall. On it I drew a simple robed figure with a large, oblong head - large enough to fit each saint's head and nimbus. (If you don't have long paper, fold copy paper in fouths and tape them together.)
When you make any type of paper doll or paper chain it is vital that there is plenty of uncut space on both folded sides. This is what holds the dolls together!
Once cut, we had the beginning of our saint chain. Now, for the fun part, adding the nimbus! I like to use gold sticker seals for my nimbuses; they are beautiful, easy, and Adelae loves to stick stickers! If you don't have gold seals on hand, just use a gold marker, crayon or glitter glue to create this halo effect on the top of the heads.
Remember, we don't turn into angels when we die! (See St. Michael and All Angels post) Still, the Bible tells us that the saints are dressed in white robes while standing in front of the Lamb, so even if they look a little bit like angels, white robes it is - even for the guys!
After the nimbuses are applied, it's time to glue on the heads! Adelae had a lot of fun placing the heads - designing her own "seating arrangement"!
Finally, once all the heads were securely glued, we added the most important part. Each sinner is only a saint because of the Savior - so we gave each saint a gold cross on the center of their white robe.
Finally, to display our saints, they had to stand before the Lamb - Jesus. So we propped them up along the window and placed our Easter candle on the sill.
Any nice white candle would work, but I love the candles found in the Latin food aisle of the grocery store. They are sturdy, inexpensive, and you can often find them without any decorations - so it's fun to add stickers and make them your own. Adelae made this resurrected Jesus candle two years ago; it's a great little project for any age child.
How lovely to see all of these saints, hand-in-hand, gathered around the Lamb - a little preview of the joy we have to come! Of course, there is one last thing you just have to do with your little kick-line of saints - ring a bell for each of them!
The haunting tradition of All Saints Sunday is to toll the church bell for each member of the congregation who fell asleep in Christ throughout the past year. The tolling is long and somber, but any sadness is bound to this Earth, for the bells in heaven must always be peeling! Moreover, the church isn't praying for these members, rather they are with Christ praying for us! When we worship with "angels and archangels and all the company of heaven" they too are there at the altar, not to be worshiped but to worship! We daresn't worship those who have gone before us, but rather gain encouragement from their "well -fought fight....nobly fought of old".
At home, prepare your children for worship by explaining this tradition, and then find a bell. Ours is Andy's "sell bell" - the one his staff rings "like they mean it!" every time they close a sale. It's always a little electrifying to hit that service bell with the loud, sharp DING! Take turns naming saints - those holy ones, baptized in Christ - both living and living eternally, and ring that bell. One ring for every soul!
Finally, sing! "For All the Saints" is one of the most beautiful hymns of our church. Sing it with your family! The focus of the first two verses are those saints translated into heaven, and the following verses are great encouragement to the saints militant still here on Earth. Last night I listened to a fabulous study of this hymn, and I urge you to listen to it too, click to listen and sing along: "For All the Saints" Hymn Study by Dr. Arthur Just.
For All the Saints
For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Thou was their rock, their fortress and their might;
Thou Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou in the darkness drear, their one true light.
Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor's crown of gold!
Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
And when the fight is fierce the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again are arms are strong.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
But lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day:
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of Glory passes on His way.
From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;
Thank you for reading!
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