The house I grew up in was beautiful in the fall. A maple tree twice its height would be ablaze with the colors of autumn right out front. Pumpkins adorned the steps that led to the front door, which often had cornstalks propped up next to it and a very autumnal “welcome” sign that would beckon visitors into the smell of freshly baked molasses cookies. We loved fall. We hated Halloween.
The same cozy house underwent a sudden transformation every October 31st. Lights were turned off, pumpkins were pulled inside, and anyone who made it to the doorbell was met with silence as my family huddled in the back of the house with our chicken pot pies and kept the dog occupied so she wouldn’t give any visitors the idea that someone might be home. After scarfing down our pot pies, we’d load into the car dressed up in innocuous costumes and head to the church for a Harvest festival.
Though intended to be an evangelistic opportunity, the festival drew mostly church kids, who waited with bated breath between bites of cotton candy to see whose Moses costume was best. It was an attempt to somehow redeem the ghoulish costumes and darkness that paraded through our neighborhoods on Halloween night, but as Christian families fled to the church gymnasium for refuge, we left dark homes behind us. Lights off. No one home.
"Halloween is the only night of the year that our neighbors–nearly all of them– will be coming by our house and knocking on our doors. What can we do to show them Christ?"
To my parents’ credit, they navigated well what many consider murky water when it comes to Christianity and Halloween. Some Halloweens we stayed home and got up the gumption to tape John 3:16 to packages of Skittles and ration them out to the passersby. But to be honest, as a child, I was scared stiff to answer the door, not knowing what costumes I’d see on the other side. I much preferred the security of keeping the lights off and being with my friends from church. But as I got older, I started to wonder how October 31st would have been different if we had stayed home and kept the lights on; how it would’ve been different if we applied the Gospel to the ghosts, goblins, and ghouls that came knocking on our door.
Halloween was always a night that it seemed like darkness was winning. We would hear stories of nasty pranks and dangerous neighborhoods and all the ways evil had gripped the hearts and minds and hands of man. And it all completely terrified me. But I had only a partial picture, one that saw the serpent bruising the heel of the Second Adam again and again and again, and forgot that Christ is the snake-crusher.
Because of Christ, the darkness does not win. “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” (John 1:4-5). It can be tempting to hunker down in our own little bubbles of light when darkness comes knocking on Halloween night, but because of Christ, we have light that will and should shine in the darkness. Remember the light we’ve been given: Christ, the true light, has come. If we are in him, we are those who have believed in his name, the ones whom “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Remember with gratitude that it is God alone who “shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), and be eager to speak of the grace of God that removed the veil from your heart. Let the light of Christ shine through you as you welcome neighbors to your home.
What if we made a concerted effort to make our homes attractive to our neighbors this Halloween, to make our homes light in the darkness? Halloween is the only night of the year that our neighbors–nearly all of them– will be coming by our house and knocking on our doors. What can we do to show them Christ?
Hospitality, even on Halloween.
Turn your lights on. Be hospitable to the little ladybugs, firefighters, superheroes, and whomever else might knock on your door. Find creative ways to make them comfortable. Many families go trick-or-treating around dinner time; pull the grill out front and throw hot dogs on. Build a fire in the driveway and offer s’mores (as well as a place for folks to warm up). Set up some extra camp chairs; people may welcome a pause in the house hopping.
Whatever you end up doing, whether with hot dogs, hot cocoa, or just a welcome smile when the doorbell rings, remember with compassion that “at one time you were darkness,” as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:8, “but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light… Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” What better way to expose the darkness than to be beacons of light from our homes? May God give us the grace and strength to love our neighbors and to share with them the light of Christ this Halloween.