I have four kids. Last year, the oldest three were finally old enough (and aware enough to really want) to trick or treat.
So we went for it. They decided on their costumes, mom helped them put it all together, we got our pails ready, and out into the darkness we went. A couple Nintendo characters, a princess, and a father who would rather be watching Thursday night football but is putting up a show of support for the wee ones.
Off we went down our street, and within a very short amount of time, I started feeling the flow. It was really fun to take the kids up to each door, ring the doorbell, shout “trick or treat!” and then get a handful of candy. With each door, we met smiling faces, great candy, and the kids started to gain a bunch of confidence. They got good at spotting which houses were likely to be good houses to approach, and we were gaining significant momentum on getting our chocolate fix on that night. It was really fun.
But even more than that, we started having an absolute BALL interacting with the other parent-kid clusters wandering around the neighborhood – commenting on other kids costumes, asking which houses they were going to, smiling and laughing. It was like this amazingly, GENUINELY communal experience.
When we got home, the kids rushed up to Mandi to show her how much candy they got. We regaled her with our stories of what we saw and did… and in the middle of all of that I said to her:
That experience was amazing. Christians should be the best freaking trick-or-treaters in the world.
I mean, you’ve gotta take a step back just to take in what’s happening – One day a year, neighborhoods all over the United States decide that it is absolutely fine for children to dress up in silly costumes, roam the streets with their parents, and go up to the houses of complete strangers, and ask for food. AND, if that weren’t enough, the expectation is that people WILL GIVE you what you ask for, WILL DO SO GLADLY, and WILL SEND YOU ON YOUR WAY WITH A SMILE ON YOUR FACE.
The level of trust involved in this transaction is just outrageous. One night a year – a community behaves like a community.
When I was a kid, we didn’t do Halloween. Halloween was a celebration of the occult and was demonic through and through. Witches were out doing seances and sacrificing dogs and praying against Christians and other scary things, and some people were even putting razor blades and pushpins into candy in order to hurt people. That was DEFINITELY happening and we should DEFINITELY be on our guard.
So “on our guard” were we that we backed out of the thing altogether and created our own separate gathering – A “Hallelujah Night” at our church were we could dress up like Bible characters and play Bible games.
I get the heart of that. I really do. But that fundamentalist retreat from the world is exactly where the Church misses the heart of Jesus. The Jesus who taught us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and stood with the prophets in imagining a world in which neighborhoods and streets would be safe and free from terror and told us that the Spirit was upon him to help bring about just such a state of affairs.
So when one night a year, the Spirit moves upon whole communities of people to create a space of trust and hilarity and candy and safety, and we don’t jump in with both feet, I wonder if we really believe our own story.
We should be on the front lines of this business, helping our neighborhoods lean into an ethos of safety and trust and joy. For we see such a state of affairs as a sign of the Spirit’s gracious presence and reign, as evidence of the Father’s work. And as Jesus said, “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” – and the Son’s people are called to do the same.
So, this year, my kids are geared up once again for Trick-or-Treating. And so am I. I’m putting on my ninja costume, grabbing a plastic sword, heading into the darkness with my kids and some friends, and celebrating the Spirit’s work (while I get my chocolate fix on).
Hope you’ll do the same.
Grace and Peace,