How should a Christian celebrate Halloween?

“The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.
The one who eats, eats in the honor of the Lord…”

(Romans 14:6)

There is a tension that comes with Halloween, much like the tension of Christmas.  With Christmas, it is difficult not to get swept up in the commercialism, the “Currier and Ives” nostalgia, and the flat out hedonism of the “I’ve-been-good-give-me-what-I-want” mentality.

Halloween carries its own jumbled baggage.  The early church celebrated All Saint’s Day to commemorate the lives of the saints who had died as martyrs and witnesses of the faith.  To honor, or “hallow” a saint, sometimes leads to idolatry, elevating the life of a man to a demigod like status, but the abuse of an honor ought not negate the honor.  The author of Hebrews recites the Faithful Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, honoring the great witnesses of our faith as a way of encouraging our continued life of faith.  The night before this day of remembrance, All Hallows Eve – or Halloween – as one Pastor writes, “was thought to be a last ditch party on the part of unholy ones — devils, witches, fairies, imps and so forth.”

None of that really matters today; we’ve lost all sense of tradition or purpose behind Halloween.  Having jettisoned every element of honoring the lives of the saints, the All American Halloween is – like everything else – all about filling your bucket.  Add to that a hyper-sexualization (“Sexy Witch” or “Naughty Schoolgirl”), or ghoulish morbidity (zombie, vampire, etc…), or a combination (“Sexy Zombie Nurse” – which really doesn’t make any sense), and there is little to commend about Halloween.

Still, we want to maintain an “in the world, but not of the world” practice, and if you live anywhere near children, you will surely have a few trick or treaters to entertain tonight.  So what do you do?  How do you celebrate this day without compromising your witness?  Here are a couple of points:

  • Be Gracious
    Remember that there are some Christians, maybe within your own church, who will choose not to participate in the festivities of the day.  Call it what you want, a Fall or Harvest Festival, they want nothing to do with it.  Then there are those whose yards are all decked out, and the fog machine is running, and they greet you at the door in full costume. Faithful Christians disagree about Easter (or is it Resurrection Sunday), Christmas, playing cards on Sunday (or any day for that matter); so you know they will disagree on how we participated in Halloween.  Let this be your guiding principle, “Treat one another with the same grace, patience, and forgiveness that God has shown you in Jesus Christ.”  That kind of love will cover a multitude of sins.
  • Be Hospitable and Joyful
    Here’s a thought from Doug Wilson, “When neighborhood trick or treaters come to your door, I would encourage you to give them more candy than unbelievers give, as opposed to a glare and/or a tract about the fires of hell. We want to behave during this time in such a way that their celebrations are revealed as far more anemic than ours (not to mention twisted and gross).”  We talk a lot about living our lives so that others may see our joy and want to be a part of it.  No watered-down, imitation celebration will do that.  Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine so that everyone marveled.  Do you seriously think that the lollipop and “Jesus sticker” is going to get anyone’s attention.
  • Glorify God
    Whether you celebrate the day as Elvis, or turn off the lights and pray the “hottentots” won’t come to your door, let us remember that in all things we are to glorify God.  If you celebrate the day, celebrate it in a way that will bring glory to God.  And I’m sorry, but I don’t see how demons, ghouls, zombies, and half-naked witches do that.  If you do, then you have a difficult argument to make.  Let your costumes, and your conduct, show the glory and light of God in a darkened world.  Let this be the guiding principle in all of your ways, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).


Above the Clouds

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”

(Isaiah 60:1)

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that somewhere out there, high above the clouds, the sun is shining in all its glory.  It doesn’t take a great deal of faith to make such a claim.  But it does take a great deal of faith to remember such a basic truth on a day like this.  The sun hasn’t been seen here in the last three days, and the forecast for the next week is perpetually stuck on “mostly cloudy.”  The world is grey, gloomy, and wet.

If only I could fly.  If you’ve ever had to fly in the middle of winter, you know the image that I have in mind right now.  The whole world is overcast and shadowed in cloud, but like the first spring flower breaking through the last winter snow, your plane emerges from the clouds as it ascends to its cruising altitude and the cabin of the plane is filled with a welcome and wondrous light.

I know that if I could climb high enough I’d see the sun again, bask in its warmth, revel in its light; but alas, this earth-bound misfit, no matter the effort, is unable to rise above and pierce the veil.  The harder I try, the thicker the clouds seem to get.  If I cannot rise to the light, must I remain in darkness forever?

No, because I know that there is a light that is greater than the sun that has come to cheer our downcast hearts and darkened minds.  There is the light of God, shining from the glory of his Son, that has come to us.

While I could give an exhaustive list, here’s just a glimpse of our proof:

  • Psalm 118:27 “The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.”
  • Matthew 4:16 “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has shined.”
  • John 1:4-5 “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
  • Revelation 21:23 “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:8, “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”  There are necessary moral implications to this verse, yes; we are to do that which is pleasing to God.  More can, and should, be said about that later.  But for now there is first this great message of hope: No matter how thick the darkness that surrounds you, you live by faith in the light of Christ. You are walking, living, basking in His light.

The common “Altar Call” parlance would have you come to the light, but while the invitation is no doubt sincere, such a journey is unnecessary.  His light has already come to you.  Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).  Friends, lift your head from the land of darkness, and look to the light.  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).