It occurred to me this evening that for a holiday the church has traditionally condemned and lambasted, we have certainly done a fine job of celebrating Halloween. I don’t mean this in any derogatory way toward the church, druids, costume companies, Hershey’s, M&M Mars, or whoever the genius is behind Mike & Ikes (surely it can’t just be Mike and/or Ike). In fact, I don’t think our desire to get together, enjoy each other’s company, eat, laugh, and play is ever a bad thing. God Himself created festivals, holidays, and weekends. But, what was subtly ironic this afternoon about our stance on Halloween was the fact that we church-folk have a hard time not observing this holiday on a much more regular basis.
I’ve read and understand the history of the holiday and I totally get why people who haven’t been outside for a decade or more would see dressing up as border-line demonic, and at least as a bad idea. But I can tell you that seeing my daughter in full princess garb and my son in a black bear zip up costume has to be the justification for having some kind of dress up holiday…that much cute in one place is almost criminal. But at least we come to this day every year with the understanding that if you see a three and a half foot tall skeleton with a pillow case of candy coming toward you, you can rest assured that it is a costume, a mask, or some kind of appearance alteration. November 1st reveals everyone to be who they originally were. But in the church we have a tendency to come together with people for weeks, months, and even years and religiously (pun intended) don our costume, mask securely in place, and pretend to be someone we’re not.
I’m not sure how many churches post some sort of requirements in the vestibule that would seem to necessitate this kind of image management, but there are some church members who have been in “deep cover” for a long time. They never let anyone see who they are, they never let anyone hear their true voice, they never let on that they have fears and debts and doubts and wants and disappointments. They just keep on putting on the costume, pulling into the parking lot, punching the “good deeds clock” and never even consider doing things differently. Differently would be a dangerous thing. Differently might mean that a lot of things change. Differently would require an initial investment of vulnerability, and for many there seems to be no return worth that kind of stake.
What I would propose, friends, is a figurative November 1st for us all. Every time we come together with our community of faith, in whatever format that happens from church services to small groups to morning coffee meetings, may we leave our costumes behind. May we wad them up and throw them in the corner and walk into those moments as authentic and real as possible. Jesus’ work on the cross means that we are perfect in God’s sight, even though He knows every part of us that is by no means perfect. We do the cross a disservice when we do not walk confidently in the reality that Jesus bore our shame. Until Sunday morning becomes November 1st for us we will forfeit our blood-bought right to be who we actually are in the presence of God and our spiritual brother and sisters.
So, may the church continue to claim Halloween as a time to enjoy candy, fellowship, and festival, but may we also reject the Halloween that takes place weekly for so many of us. We are free, let us live free.