A Truly Hallowed Evening

I’m not a big fan of scary costumes or creepy decorations, but I do love it when October 31 comes around every year. For many reasons actually. I love the cool, crisp evening air that always finds it way to my hometown by late October. I love pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, and high school football playoffs. And I love it when giant bags full of chocolate find their way onto my living room floor.

But the thing I love most about Halloween night is a tradition that my family started a few years ago … a big front yard bonfire.

I can think of three ways that Christian families interact with Halloween each year. Some of you may REJECT it as a pagan celebration of darkness and evil. Some of you may ACCEPT it as an innocent time to enjoy being a kid, dressing up in fun outfits and hanging out with friends and family. But in my opinion, there is a third option that should be seriously considered by followers of Jesus: Some of you will choose to REDEEM it.

Instead of just buying 10 bucks worth of candy and keeping it in a bowl inside the front door, we decided to turn our front yard into a welcoming space for community, rest, and fellowship. Every year on Halloween afternoon, we set up a fire pit in the yard and surround it with chairs and benches. Now when folks walk by for candy, they are invited to sit and linger as long as they would like in the warmth of a fire and in the fellowship of neighbors. Some will stay for a minute or two, others will end up staying all night while their kids roam the streets. In recent years, we have brought out guitars and mandolins and added the joy of good music to the atmosphere.

It’s not a difficult task, and doesn’t require any big planning or execution. It’s simply taking advantage of an opportunity that will present itself. On October 31 every year, it’s a cultural reality that most of our neighbors will pass directly in front our homes at some point. Not in a car, but on foot.

We have an incredible (and rare) opportunity to redeem that reality with the gospel by creating space for relationships to happen. People want to be seen, heard, known, and loved. But the busyness of our lives and safety of our homes keep us isolated from those that often live right next to us for years.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was for a follower of God, his answer was simple and profound. He said essentially “The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all you have. And the second is just like the first, love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” - Matthew 22:37-39

Love God and love others. Simple and profound. What would it be like if all those who professed to follow Christ actually took these two commands to heart? What would one night a year look like if we allowed our routines to be fully interrupted by the presence of neighbors we rarely ever see, much less interact with?

Next Wednesday evening, the world around us will dress up in silly outfits and walk the streets begging for candy. I can’t wait to give them the good stuff (chocolate, please no candy corn). But I really can’t wait to sit around the warm fire and slow down long enough to enjoy good conversation with whoever God leads in our direction.

Let’s redeem this annual event called Halloween, and make it a truly Hallowed Evening. One that reflects the image and glory of a God who made us to live in community and truly love one another.

Ed Sweeny