When I was a little boy and lived in the sticks in Northern Michigan my mother would put us 4 or 5 kids in the car and drive us all over the community trick-or-treating. I remember her often coming to the door with us and pulling at her polyester stretch pants to get her to stop chit-chatting and move on to the next house, which might have been a 1/4 mile or a 1/2 mile or even a mile down the road. Most of the houses had dirt drives with puddles just over ankle deep. A few had grumbling cow dogs or a beagle barking its voice out on a chain. They'd all have a candle-lit pumpkin on the porch or in the window and not much for yard lights outside of that. Getting out of the driveway was a great adventure with unbuckled kids in the back seat poking their heads over the top of the seat to help direct a straight path out in the faint rosy glow of the tail-lights (I remember a couple of our old sedans didn't have backup lamps that worked) while mom tried to use her mirrors and yelled at us kids to sit down so she could see. At least once we ended up in the ditch and had to get help (always in a car waiting to get in the driveway) to get the car pushed out of the shallow ditch or another time the 'undriveable' track in the muddy driveway. Trick-or-treating was a community event. A social event. Neighbors connected and kids got candy that they didn't often get the rest of the year (aside from Easter and a little around Christmas and St. Valentine's day). When I look back on that I don't see All-Hallow's Eve of yore. I see alot of GOOD.
For my own children it has been much the same. Whatever neighborhood we've lived in we've treated Halloween as a time to dress the kids up in goofy costumes and parade them around the neighborhood with buckets to visit our neighbors, check out the fall colors (what's left of them), and instill memories of community in our kids. Until a teaching from the church pricked our ears. We were taught of the original 'All-Hallow's Eve' and how it is a dangerous way that Satan has lured Christians of today into worldliness. From then on we took our kids to alternative celebrations like 'trunk-or-treat' or just halloween parties that banned ghoulish costumes and were held at a church. We separated ourselves from the rest of the community as an example of how one should be in the world but not 'of' the world. You know, that is all well and good for those that feel a genuine heartache over halloween. I appreciate the concept, but this year I'm struck with a different dilemma.
I volunteer at the teen center and one of the students that is a regular attendee asked me last week if we could have a halloween party. "Oh YEAH we can!", was my first reaction. Then I started thinking about the board and how they would respond to the suggestion of having a halloween party and it caused me to think deeply about our role and our purpose when we say we believe in Christ.
I've decided that Jesus hi-jacked halloween! Yes, I don't know when it happened. It must have been sometime before I was born. He first brought polite kids in to yell trick-or-treat and neighbors out with bowls of candy knowing full well that these kids weren't going to wax their windows or T.P. their trees or egg their car. They had faith that that wasn't going to happen and sometimes it did but that didn't keep them from believing in those kids. It also didn't keep the mischievous kids from getting candy from the bowl and taking with them an image of a saintly neighbor that they wrongly tricked. In Carson City you rarely see someone's windows waxed or egged or T.P.'d. Mostly you see neighbors getting out like they should and having fellowship and loving each other and making over the cute kids and well, it looks alot like the church. Maybe I'll burn for that but something tells me its just this way that our redeemer lives. Something intended for evil is co-opted for his Glory. Something meant for destruction is turned sweet and holy in a very real way.
So go with the love of Christ in your heart and hi-jack halloween one more year and look for Hi-Jacker Jesus, he'll be dressed like your neighbor!
p.s. I must add that this is not intended to crash down on church-sponsored parties - safe way for people to have fun. I just think that it is way cool how Jesus can cause us to rethink things sometimes. He truly does offer freedom from oppression and guilt. Whether you decide to hang out with the friends from church or renew old acquaintenances in your neighborhood is up to you, lets just live and allow others that same freedom.