This Saturday night miniature ghosts, goblins and super heroes will emerge from houses at dusk to comb the streets in search of treats. I always enjoyed taking our kids trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, watching children hold open hopeful bags, peering into their dark recesses trying to determine what luck they might have had at the door. A costumed ghoul that jumped from the bushes once convinced our five-year-old that he had enough candy for one night.
I still enjoy little ones ringing our door bell. I enjoy trying to guess who is hiding behind the princess mask, what little boy is growling in the Ninja Turtle costume. I especially like to have ET and Yoda drop by for a visit with their pet ghost-dog. Most of them are very polite ghosts, goblins and super heroes. They almost always say, “Thank you.”
Halloween, of course, has its dark side. Our anonymous neighborhoods, nightly news reports of abducted children and maps dotted with sexual predators have erased the naïve world of Halloween past. We are more aware that we live in a dangerous world where evil is real and present.
Many churches are more than a little uncomfortable with Halloween. After all, it has definite pagan roots. On the one hand, it is enjoyable to celebrate community with imagination, fantasy and neighborly generosity. On the other hand, there are demonic and destructive forces at work in the world that kill and destroy. It is one thing to celebrate fall and harvest and indulge in imagination. It is another to celebrate the occult, witchcraft, the devil and demons.
Many struggle with addictions and impulses they seem unable to control. They find themselves on a collision course with destruction, both their own and the destruction of those they love. Our world needs the deliverance from evil that Jesus offers.
Jesus once met a man who was outcast from his community. He lived among the tombs of the dead, often cutting himself with sharp stones. Local citizens tried to control him by putting him in chains, but he broke the chains and escaped back to his home among the graves. When Jesus ordered the demons that were destroying the man to leave him they entered a nearby herd of swine that immediately rushed into the sea and were drowned. The man was healed. When his neighbors found him, he was in his right mind, sitting with Jesus, no longer a threat to himself or to them. But it scared them. They asked Jesus to leave their country and not to come back. I guess forces that we cannot understand or control always scare us.
We can celebrate Halloween as an occasion to enjoy our children and their imagination. We can celebrate the turning leaves, dry corn, pumpkins and harvest. Halloween can also serve as a reminder that in our struggles with the unseen forces of good and evil, both in our hearts and in the world, we have a deliverer.