Tuesday, October 31, 2023

A Halloween Invitation

We're using this week to bring together some of the things we've been talking about for the past little bit in this space about the intersection of faith and culture and how to engage the world without entertaining it. Halloween is a great example of all of these things. So here we are.

We said yesterday that Halloween is a time in which the roles are a little bit reversed - the world is more open than it usually is, and it's the church that has historically been more closed. 

So the question is: what do we do with today? 

Do we dress up? Do we take our kids trick-or-treating? Do we hand out candy? Do we hand out tracts? Do we give candy to kids in costumes we think are appropriate? Do we have a dialogue about the devil? Obviously, we know that we don't summon demons, involve ourselves in the occult, or the like. But beyond that, what is a Christian to do on Halloween?

Simply put, have fun. 

Yup. I said it. Have fun. Go out and do whatever it is that is fun for you, as long as it honors God. Want to dress up? Dress up. Pick your costume wisely, then dress up. Want to welcome trick-or-treaters? Flick your porch light on and grab a bowl of candy. Bonus points if you have something for the adults, too. Want to take your little ones out? Take them out. (Bundle up - it's cold this year, at least where I live.) 

We spend so much of our time trying to figure out what we think God would approve of or not approve what, what is "good" or what is "right" or what is "appropriate" for a Christian that we think that these are the things God is looking at, too. We have created Him in our image and though we usually start by believing we care about the things He cares about, it isn't long before we are convinced He cares about the things we care about. Which is how we got to the place where we're afraid to have fun because heaven forbid God see us enjoying ourselves on "the devil's holiday" or whatever. 

You know what I think God sees when He looks out across the overwhelming majority of cultural Halloween celebrations? 

I think He sees what I said yesterday - a world that is more open than it is on any other day of the year. Literally any other day. 

He sees neighborhoods with porch lights on and front doors open, ready to welcome even the strangers. He sees candy and trinkets freely given. He sees sidewalks with friendly faces, even hidden behind masks sometimes. There's something about Halloween - if you see a glove dropped on the sidewalk on any other day, you think how unfortunate it is that someone lost their glove. On Halloween, when everyone is out and about (and those who aren't are in and welcoming), you pick up that glove and you walk around looking for a one-gloved neighbor who might have dropped it. You'll carry that thing around all night. 

Demons and devils and ghosts and the paranormal and whatever else aside, Halloween brings out the best in us as neighbors. As brothers and sisters. As fellow human beings. 

We betray ourselves sometimes in how worried we get about a day that is so open like this - all the time we spend talking about whether someone's going to put drugs or needles or who-knows-what-else in our kids' candy, mapping out where all the sex offenders (or just creepy folks) live, doing all that we can to make this wide open world feel comfortably small for us. 

But I think when God looks at it, He sees how wide open it is. And He rejoices. I think He rejoices! On this, the so-called "devil's holiday," the world seems to be getting it more right than on any other day of the year. Isn't that ironic? But I think God rejoices that at least we're getting it right. 

And I think He wants His people to participate. He wants us to be here for it. He wants us to show up and be neighborly on the day when, finally, the whole world is being neighborly. 

You don't have to evangelize today. You don't have to drop tracts. You don't have to preach. Let your love and neighborliness do the preaching. Seriously. Just be present. 

Because a crazy thing happens when we take advantage of open doors without barging through them - we start to establish the kind of relationships that lead to all of that other stuff later. And more naturally. We get to know the folks we haven't known before, even the ones who live right on our street. And as we get to know them, they get to know us. And they can see something in us. They can see something in us that maybe they want to know more about. We become less of a mystery to them, and them to us. And we start finding opportunities to be neighborly more than once per year. And that is how the message of God truly spreads. 

Today's the day. 

So what are we, as Christians, supposed to do with it? Go have fun. Embrace the openness of the world. Rejoice. 

And...be slightly amused. Because even though it kind of looks like it, the truth is that the world doesn't have as much of a monopoly on this day as they think.  

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