Yet, it's one holiday I've come to love.
I grew up in a God-fearing family, attended conservative Christian school and a great big church with lots of programs. Today, my childhood church would still be classified as a mega-church.
Our school had Harvest Day and we all got to dress up as something Historical, Biblical or Literary. In kindergarten, my pals and I dressed up as Job and his children. In first grade, I was Delilah. I skipped second grade, but my entire third grade class dressed as Cherokee Indians. My entire fourth grade class dressed as pioneers. In fifth grade, I was Queen Liliuokalani. In sixth grade, we dressed as a bridal party out of some book I had read. We'd parade around the gym and then go to our classrooms for candy and games. It was fun and we often discussed that we were celebrating God's bountiful harvest. But mostly, it was just good-natured fun.
That was just at school. Our Wednesday night Pioneer Girls program at church also had dress-up parties. One year I dressed as Vanna White, which is hilarious because I was a chubby brunette, but hey, that's the magic of costuming. The next year, I dressed as the Lady in Red. (side note: my mom owned a bridal/formalwear shop, so there were always lots of sequin dresses to choose from while being a cowgirl or a hobo proved more difficult for me)
But the Halloween that made me really start to like the holiday came when I was in 9th grade. I dressed as a pirate that year, in case you're wondering. My youth group hosted a haunted house in the youth building on our church campus. I know some of you have stopped reading and some of you have pre-judged my church and its leaders for holding a haunted house.
The youth staff decorated the entire two-story building and we traveled through the "haunted house" with our small groups. Every room featured a different Bible story all pointing to the amazing grace shown to us by the Almighty and Merciful Savior. My favorite room featured John the Baptist; he was already beheaded, so it was just his head on a silver platter in the middle of a table.
It was the coolest thing ever. There were other stories told too, like that of Mary Magdalene and of Stephen. And if my memory serves me, there was a crucifixion scene as well.
I don't know how many 100s of kids came through that display that year. But I remember how all of us were affected by what we saw. It put real faces and real feelings to thousands-year old stories. It made the Bible real and tangible and palpable.
Eventually I grew up and when I met Scott, we decided we wouldn't "do" Halloween. It's an evil holiday after all and Christians should have nothing to do with it. Then we had Adam. And I couldn't resist dressing him up as a mobster when he was 18-months-old. But still, no Trick-or-Treating, no Halloween décor. We even taught the kids to say "Happy Harvest" because Halloween is evil and it's a holiday no Christian should celebrate.
The reality is, no matter how much Christians condemn Halloween, no matter how much they try to ignore it, that won't change Halloween. The ONLY thing that will change Halloween is Jesus.
Halloween is perhaps the darkest time of year. And Jesus calls us to be lights in the darkness. He doesn't tell us to run and hide from the world. He calls us out. He calls us out of darkness and into the light. He calls us out of darkness and into the light and to share that light with people.
The Light defeats the darkness. Jesus defeats death.
And then there's this amazing opportunity to do just that because people of all walks of life, hurting people, broken people, happy people, sad people, angry people, poor people, rich people come and ring our doorbell and hold out their hands for and ask us for something sweet. What sweeter thing is there to give them than the love of Jesus?
This year is the second year our church is hosting a Trunk-or-Treat event in Bismarck. Again, some people think this is ridiculous and maybe even "sinful." But I look at it as one of our biggest ministry opportunities ever. Hundreds of kids will come through the parking lot, asking us for candy. But that's just what they're verbalizing. What they're really asking for is what we all are asking for, "Please, love me?"
So, the kids will come, we'll talk to them, ask them about their costumes, put candy in their bags and connect with them right where they are just like Jesus connects with us right where we are. We won't judge them for picking a Dracula costume. We won't condemn them for dressing like Miley Cyrus. We'll just love them. We'll pour candy into their bags and love into their hearts and then we'll let God take over.
For some of these kids, it's the only time they have a positive interaction with an adult. For some of these kids, it's the only time they'll experience Jesus. And for the parents that come with some of them, it might be the first time in a long time that they feel like they're part of the community, that they're loved and accepted.
So, yes, I'm a Christian and I love Halloween not for the witches and goblins, and not even for the candy. I love Halloween because I can let my light shine in a very dark world. And, that, folks, is what being a follower of Christ is all about.
"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine."