I think we all need to admit something that some might find uncomfortable: Halloween has figured out something that most of us haven’t.
Halloween. That day that rolls around every October. The day many of us Christians wish would disappear. We wonder why we can’t just skip it all together. But I’m here to tell you, I don’t think we should. Because there’s some truth in the message of Halloween. And this is it:
We long to celebrate fear.
Maybe you don’t believe this, but it’s true. I’ll explain why later. But first I want to tell you the real problem with Halloween.
The real problem with Halloween is not its message. The real problem with Halloween is that it can’t fulfill the message it preaches. This is because Halloween cannot possibly accomplish both fear and celebration at the same time. It has to compromise. To understand how, we have to understand a few things about fear.
Fear, real fear, is something we experience when we realize that we are completely powerless. To be at the mercy of someone else is truly a fearsome thing. Anyone in a position of powerlessness quickly realizes that she is also in need of great mercy. And the only one positioned to show mercy is the one who wields the power. We need to understand this about power, mercy, and fear in order to see Halloween in the proper perspective. Keep them in mind as we consider three of Halloween’s favorite tricks.
Halloween starts off by making us pretend. It has invented all manner of things to see, hear, and experience representing the most fearsome things we can conjure – death and zombies and all things gruesome. Halloween has figured out a way to represent these things so that we feel like we’re experiencing them: decorations, costumes and the like. Then, safely inside Halloween’s well-constructed representations of fear, we celebrate all the fearsome things we’re experiencing. But here’s the thing Halloween likes to keep secret – there’s no real fear because we’re not really powerless. Deep down, we all know that we will never fear what we can control. Our costumes, our decorations are all under our power. And they can’t make us fearful.
For those who are not satisfied with feigned fear, Halloween ups the ante. Enter: The Haunted Hay Ride, The House of Horror, and other such experiences. Halloween uses these kinds of things to give us the illusion of powerlessness. Halloween tells us that if we don’t know when the zombie will jump out, or how long he’ll chase us, then we must be powerless. Only, it’s just more fakery. Because these experiences eventually end. Real powerlessness isn’t something we can wait out. If we were truly powerless, we would not know when or if we’d find relief. So, despite Halloween’s effort, we are still left with nothing but feigned fear.
For most of us, the above scenarios are where Halloween ends. Despite the feigned fear, we don’t seek much more from our observance of the day. But this is not true for everyone, and Halloween has its most dangerous tricks reserved for those who seek real fear.
Now, I realize many people don’t believe there is an actual Satan, but – there is. And the very real and very fearsome thing about Satan is that he has actual power. Without help from the indwelling Holy Spirit, no human powers are a match for his.
But here is what Halloween doesn’t want you to know about Satan:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
We’ll get fear all right, but we won’t be celebrating. Because Satan offers no mercy.
So, Halloween can’t fulfill its central message; it can’t satisfy our longing to celebrate fear. It compromises in one of two ways: by making us fake our fear of something that really has no power over us, or by leading us to one whose power we will never want to celebrate.
Why, then is Halloween so popular? Because it resonates. It plays to what we all know but refuse to admit:
We’re powerless. And we desperately want something good to come of it.
There is very little in this life that we can control, and the things that have power over us are all around us: death, disease, natural disasters, financial crises, spiritual forces. We know these exist, and we hate that we’re powerless against them. We desperately want to know that what holds power over us will also have mercy on us. This is why we long to celebrate what instills fear.
Y’all. I don’t want to think about what we’re left with if we don’t have mercy.
But consider this truth that Halloween is so cleverly trying to counterfeit:
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” – Hebrews 12:28, 29
A consuming fire is a powerful thing. And God is The Consuming Fire. He has power over all the other things that have power over us!
So we approach him with reverence and awe, as we would a consuming fire, recognizing our powerlessness in His presence.
And what do we do with our reverence and awe? We worship Him – we celebrate the fear we have of Him!
And why do we celebrate?
Because the one who holds the power over our lives is also the one who chooses mercy.
Halloween. It’s the counterfeit answer to our God-given longing to worship the one who is both powerful and merciful. This Halloween, let’s do exactly what God has put on our hearts to do and what Halloween has been telling us to do (incorrectly) all this time. Let’s celebrate fear and worship our God! But why stop on October 31? Every day could be Halloween. And I think God would love it!