Bump In The Night

Last Halloween, Abundant Life Christian Center in Colorado sponsored an event called "Hell House," designed to scare kids out of their wits. But instead of goblins, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night, they were frightened by the disastrous effects of human sin. They saw a woman undergoing a bloody abortion, and a grieving man who killed his family in a drunk-driver accident. They attended the mock funeral of a gay teenager who died from AIDS. Visitors could even take an elevator down to "Hell," complete with screams, foul smells, and Satan himself. Many churches discourage their members from observing Halloween, and that's understandable. They're troubled by the way Halloween popularizes practices like witchcraft. But is our only alternative to try to frighten people into heaven? May I suggest that, instead, we recover the historic Christian meaning of Halloween? Yes, surprising though it may be, Halloween started out as a Christian celebration. In the seventh century, the Church created a holiday to honor God and all His saints. The church chose November 1 for this holiday hoping to replace pagan festivals that took place on that date and involved the spirits of the dead. This celebration is known as the feast of All Saints or All Hallows. On All Hallows, the church remembers the "great cloud of witnesses" described in Hebrews 12 who have gone before us and are now with the Lord. In 1484, November 1 was declared a holy day of obligation: The faithful were required to attend Mass, in addition to fasting the night before. That is, they fasted on the Eve of All Hallows, from which we get the word Halloween. The Feast of All Hallows provides a link between what is known as the church triumphant--that is, those who are with Christ, and the church militant--members of the church still struggling on earth. When Christians sing that great hymn of the church, "For all the Saints who from their labors rest," they recall our role models in the faith. They remember that God has been faithful to His promise to preserve His Church in the midst of even the most trying circumstances. Today, our culture has reverted to a pre-Christian understanding of Halloween. October 31 isn't remembered as the eve of a great festival of the church. At best, it's an excuse to ask total strangers for candy. At worst, it's a celebration of the mindless paganism our ancestors wisely turned their backs on. So why don't you take the lead in your Christian circles to use this day to honor the great saints who set examples for us? Already, many churches offer "Reformation Day" parties as an alternative to letting kids roam the streets after dark, knocking on strangers' doors. But Christians could also use All Hallows Eve to reacquaint their kids with Halloween's Christian origins. Our churches can hold Halloween parties for kids and use them to lovingly witness to our secular neighbors. Instead of trying to scare our neighbors into the kingdom with church-run "Hell Houses," we ought to be modeling a kingdom they'd want to enter. One filled with a great crowd of witnesses to encourage us on our journey of faith.


Chuck Colson



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