Friday, November 1, 2013

365 Shopping-Days Left before Next Halloween

How important? Think millstones & necks.
Things got busy yesterday. It’s only just today that I’ve seen the impassioned condemnations of families who “make light of evil” or “pretend that witches and demons aren’t real,” or subject their children to “the sins” of trick-or-treating. Granted, unregulated early-childhood sugar consumption has consequences. But after the first call for “wet-cleanup on aisle bedside,” most parents learn to set appropriate limits.

But today, appropriate limits do appear lacking, though primarily among Christians who would require that others who do not share their convictions join them in ignoring the children at their door, except to condemn them for their participation in the vestiges of what has been a Christian ritual. So, I offer the following comparison.

One of these things is not like the other.
I don't choose to ignore Christmas, despite the fact that it was scheduled and built upon the foundations of the Romans’ “Saturnalia” and incorporated many of that festival's symbols and characteristics. I also recognize that, for most North Americans, Christmas is merely an excuse for excessive consumption (celebrating gluttony, materialism, and competitive indebtedness). Certainly, these aspects are far more visible than the Christ Who is proclaimed during an hour or so on Christmas Eve in far too few churches. I think the birth of our Savior is important enough to not only look beyond the cultural trappings that obscure Him, but also to uphold Him in the midst of them as a worthy competitor to vain attempts to foster mirth and goodwill through economic expenditure. Therefore, I don’t choose to ignore Christmas. I celebrate it.

Fear the dragon, but only so much as the child.
Similarly, I don't choose to ignore Halloween (i.e., All Hallows’ Eve), despite the fact that it was originally an expansion of the celebration of Christianity’s All Saints' Day which was intended to either compete with or replace (depending upon whose histories you read) the Celtic harvest festival of Samhain. I also recognize that, for most North Americans, Halloween is merely an excuse for excessive consumption (celebrating gluttony, perhaps some measure of materialism, but not necessarily competitive indebtedness). Certainly, these aspects are far more visible than the mockery of demonic impotence symbolized by dressing children in the guise of frightening creatures or heroic rescuers, celebrating our freedom from the fear of evil and death. I think that God’s power and triumph is important enough to not only look beneath these cultural trappings that may obscure the celebration of Christ’s victory on our behalf, but also to uphold Him in contrast to what the demonic powers would try to scare us into believing as we hide in darkened houses, avoiding little children. Therefore, I don’t choose to ignore Halloween. And once we’ve finally redeemed Christmas, I’ll probably begin to more directly celebrate it.

I should also acknowledge that there is a key theological difference underlying two competing approaches to these “de-Christianized” holidays. I’m sure you’ll recognize my preference between them.

  1. One option is to reactively withdraw into self-protective Christian networks where demonic influences are presumed to be absent. This simply leaves the enemy of our souls free-er reign over communities abandoned by too many Christians. Those who believe they must preserve their salt and light (contrasting Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:13-16) will likely be successful in handing over their unused talent to Christ when He returns (Matthew 25:14-30).

  1. The other option is less popular, but it appears to be more Biblical (as well as more compassionate, evangelistic, and Christ-like) to proactively engage our communities and cultures redemptively (Matthew 28:18-20). This means pointing to the presence and purpose of Christ in the midst of even the most pagan of settings (e.g., Acts 17:16-34), and choosing the inherent risks of “cruciform, sacrificial servanthood” (Matthew 16:24-25; II Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 2:5-8, 4:8-9; Ephesians 4:11-16; etc.) over the comfort and convenience of our Christian enclaves.

So, my prayer is that God would bless each of us by taking away our bushel-baskets and compelling us to be, and to do, and to live where His salt and light can do the most good.


Anonymous said...

Very good Bill. Imagine my surprise upon reading this. :-) steph

Pastor Greg said...

Thanks Bill! My wife and I have always tried to use Halloween to be a light in the midst of an increasingly dark (literally) neighborhood. We always try to let the people who come to our door after dark on 10/31 feel welcomed and encouraged.

Although more and older came later this year than normal. And some had bags with more candy than imaginable we turned no one away.

Some really late visitors even stole my wife's un-carved pumpkin. That's the problem with hospitality... someone must have lost their head for a moment.

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