In the very early centuries of the church, bishops would write annual holiday letters to their congregations and communities in order to encourage the faithful and to instruct in ways that might not otherwise be addressed from the normal week to week preaching from the pulpit. These were usually Easter letters providing meditations and teachings on the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Along those lines I thought I would send out a “holiday letter” of my own to encourage the faithful during this season of controversial candy and costumes.
Many Christians are not quite sure what to do with Halloween. Do we trick? Do we treat? Do we offer a “safe alternative?” Do we batten down the hatches more securely than if there were a category 4 hurricane ripping through our neighborhood? What is the proper response?
My desire here is not to bind your consciences or to tempt you to sin against your consciences, but to inform your conscience and help you, in whatever you do, to do all to the glory of God and with the absolute assurance of the joy of your salvation.
Whatever else might be said about the 31st of October and the origins of the activities therein, it can safely be said that in most neighborhoods in the U.S. the day has become “National Candy Day.” When I was growing up there were basically two categories of those who did not celebrate Halloween or pass out candy to children: Jehovah’s Witnesses and party poopers. Now, I am pretty sure that no one attending Hope of Christ Church is considering a life in the Watchtower, so that sort of leaves one category.
Consider this – October 31 is the one day out of the entire year that you can walk up to your neighbors’ doors uninvited, ring the doorbell and say hello and introduce yourself and your family, and you will be greeted with a smile rather than suspicion. In so many ways subdivisions are an ugly blight on the landscape, but on October 31 people are out walking the streets, laughing with each other, and just having fun. And for the majority of the families out, it is just good, clean fun.
Concerning the “safe alternatives” I do have some reservations, but these can be done with the same joy and love for others. But do consider whether these alternatives are not simply the “Christianizing” of the same thing that is going on in your neighborhood. Are you merely removing all the Christians from your neighborhood and collecting them in a parking lot for all the same candy and dress up and fun? Why couldn’t you do that in your neighborhoods?
What about passing out more “Christian alternatives” to high fructose corn syrup and xanthum gum and other polysaccharides? Maybe a nice tract or booklet—“Here’s a ‘treat’ you can suck on for eternity while your friends all burn in a lake of fire.” My only cautionary advice (well, maybe not my only cautionary advice—please do NOT pass out booklets that even closely resemble that title) would be that if you are going to be known as “that house” that gives the little darlings something to read and ponder you should also be known as “that house” that gives out the bestest most awesomest candy in the neighborhood. If you give out tracts or the like, attach them to king size candy-bars or twenty-dollar bills, and then tell the kids to spread the word. Nothing is more effective than word-of-mouth advertising. “Don’t go to that house, you just get Halls mentholyptus.” vs. “Wow, those guys are giving out huge goody bags attached to a little booklet!”
My family has enjoyed trick-or-treating since our oldest was big enough to sit upright in a wagon. Actually, that’s not accurate. My children have enjoyed it since then. Amy and I have enjoyed it for far longer. Every year since we were married Amy makes a crockpot full of hot, spiced cider and buys powdered sugar donuts on Halloween for after the trick-or-treating is over. You know, because they didn’t pick up enough sugar. Now that we have kids, we all sit around the table eating donuts and candy and drinking apple cider while sharing any funny stories about the evening. After the kids go to bed I divide the candy into two bowls—the bowl that will not kill my third child and the bowl that will (she has a nut allergy). This may sound socialist or communist or whatever, but we are trying to diffuse the “mine, Mine, MINE!” attitude in our household especially over giant bags of sugar (special gifts, toothbrushes and underwear are the big three exceptions). We often have younger families from our church over to join us and I would not want to penalize any of my kids for choosing to serve the toddlers and first-timers by taking it slower for them. In fact one year my youngest stayed with just such a family to help there two-year-old. She was out for an hour and when she got home told me that they didn’t get past the end of our street or even to the other side. She had been to a whopping five houses in that hour. She was definitely disappointed but it was a kindness to the young family. Well, when her oldest sister got home 30 minutes later and heard what she had done, she grabbed her hand and bag and ran out the door. The two of them sprinted the neighborhood in the last 30 minutes. It was a great picture of caring for others all the way around.
None of this is to claim that every costume is appropriate or that gluttony is excusable, but simply to say that Halloween is an opportunity for us all to enjoy each other and our neighbors. Whatever you do this Halloween be sure that the manner in which you communicate your convictions is one of love and respect for others who may not share those convictions.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. –Colossians 4:5,6
Enjoy the journey.