Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween, good; Christmas, bad...

Halloween will be here in just a few days.  Costumes, candy, trick-or-treating...  I have great memories of going door to door as a kid, collecting bags of candy.  I loved (and still love) carving pumpkins.

Many Christians, however, feel that we shouldn't be a part of the Halloween celebration.  They point to its pagan origin, and question why we would take part in such a ritual.  And I must say, I agree with them to a point.  I'm not bothered as much by its origin as I am by the way it's celebrated today.  Basically, Halloween is a celebration of death.  People decorate their yards with tombstones.  They hang what appears to be dead bodies from trees.  They go to haunted houses where actors replay scenes from the most gruesome and violent horror movies ever made.  We celebrate death and call it entertainment.

Here's the problem - as I read scripture, death is not something to be celebrated.  Death is the tool of the enemy.  "By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin..."  "The wages of sin is death..."  Why would we celebrate something so terrible?  Death isn't part of God's plan.  He came to destroy death, to give us life.  So, quite honestly, I want nothing to do with glorifying death, giving glory to the enemy.

There's really only one death that's worth celebrating, one death that brings us life, and that's the death of Jesus.  If we're going to celebrate death, let's celebrate that one, because it purchased our salvation.  And the One who died didn't stay there, but is alive today.  For that death, I'm thankful.

So what do we do with this holiday that our neighbors are celebrating?  What do we do when the neighborhood kids are going door to door?  Do we turn out the lights and pretend we're not home?  Turning to scripture, I ask, What did Paul do with pagan celebrations?  In the book of Acts, we find Paul talking with the people of Athens.  He sees an altar with the inscription, "To an unknown god."  The people of Athens would worship anything, even things they couldn't identify.  In the midst of this pagan culture, Paul said, "Let me tell you about this unknown god."  He then proceeded to tell them about the God of Heaven, and His great salvation.  Paul took this pagan celebration, and redeemed it for Jesus.  Can we do the same with Halloween?

Author and songwriter John Fischer suggests that, as Christians, we should be out there with our neighbors on this holiday.  We should be going door to door with our kids, meeting our neighbors, building relationships.  We should be giving the best candy, the biggest candy, so that those around will say, "Go to that house - theirs is the best!" instead of, "Those Christians have nothing to do with us."  This makes sense to me.  We don't have to decorate in ways that celebrate death.  Just be willing to be part of the community, to be salt and light by simply being there, and giving the best stuff. 

So now, let's get to the title statement of this blog, "Halloween, good; Christmas, bad..."  What's this all about?

I would suggest that, as they are celebrated today by our society, Halloween is good and Christmas is bad.  Think about it: at Christmas, kids are asked, "Have you been a good boy or girl?"  If they have, then they get good presents.  If they haven't, they get a lump of coal in their stocking.  So what they get depends entirely on their behavior all year.  If they get good gifts, it's because they earned it.

Halloween, on the other hand, is all about grace.  When I come to your door trick-or-treating, I'm looking my worst.  I've put on my scariest, ugliest costume.  Then I've even threatened you - "Trick or treat!"  And what do you do?  You reach into your bowl and give me some candy.  Why?  Because you're a nice person.  I came at my worst, and you gave me your best.  That is a picture of grace.  Isn't that what God does?  We come at our worst - our scariest, our ugliest, covered in sin - and He gives His best.  He clothes us with His righteousness.  He promises us eternity.  Not because we're nice, but because He is. 

So this Halloween, I'll be sitting in my driveway with a big bowl of candy, porch lights shining, and representing God's grace to the kids in my neighborhood.  Happy Halloween!

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