by Matt Hein
There he was, the World War One flying ace behind enemy lines in the French countryside. The Red Baron had shot down his doghouse. Snoopy was in enemy territory while the rest of the Peanuts gang went off to a Halloween party. He made his way under barbed wire and over fields while artillery fire echoed in the distance. He was alone and his plan was to survive.
I have to admit, as a young boy that scene from The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown was awesome! How great would it have been to wear flying ace goggles on my head and fly a British Sopwith Camel, even if it were a doghouse? Each year as Halloween approached I waited eagerly for Snoopy to fly again on one of our four TV channels in northern Michigan.
For me, The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is a signal that Halloween is right around the corner. As a child, Halloween revolved around relationships and it allowed me to be with my friends. We simply enjoyed Halloween together like Charlie and the rest of the Peanuts gang.
As I got older I began to wrestle with the tensions of Halloween. I am a baptized child of God living in the freedom that comes through Jesus’ death and resurrection. So on the one hand, I am free to enjoy the day because Jesus destroyed Satan’s power and I need not be afraid of him. (see Gospel of Halloween blog)
But I also live in a broken world and I see evil all around. Sin is alive on Halloween (and every day of the year) whether I like it or not. So on the other hand, I wrestle with how much to engage a day like Halloween. Perhaps you can identify.
At some point as an adult Halloween came to feel like Snoopy behind enemy lines. I anxiously tried to navigate the day as a disciple of Jesus feeling like I was in foreign territory. It often felt isolating and my plan was just to survive the day. I either ignored Halloween or went awkwardly along with others because I wasn’t sure what to do, caught in the tension that exists because Christians have so many ideas about how to approach this holiday.
At some point as an adult Halloween came to feel like Snoopy behind enemy lines.
Along came our first child and the realization that it was time to make a better plan about Halloween. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it hit me: I am not Snoopy, I was not shot down by the Red Baron, and I am not alone in the French countryside behind enemy lines. I am not called to just stumble through Halloween or any other day of the year, but live fully in it as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
My family and I have been placed by God in our neighborhood with a bunch of people who may not know Jesus, and God loves every one of them. And all of those people, for at least one night of the year, will expect people to come to their door. Exterior lights will be on and doors will be open. People who, on any other day, would never knock on their neighbor’s door will be talking together in each others homes.
Entire neighborhoods become open communities. The bulk of our neighborhoods will feel more like Charlie and the gang going together to a party than Snoopy in the trenches. Halloween opens doors to homes and can open the door to relationships.
For disciples of Jesus the tensions of Halloween won’t go away. Jesus has still defeated and disarmed Satan, yet sin and evil are still alive and well. But into that tension God literally opens the doors of our neighborhoods on this one night and creates windows of opportunity for His people.
I can still remember the first Halloween that my wife and I chose to make a plan for walking through God’s open doors as a family. We dressed our three-month old son as an adorable pumpkin, plopped the little gourd in his stroller, and started walking from house to house. We confused most of our neighbors as they wrestled with why we didn’t want candy, but just wanted to say hello. And we introduced ourselves to our neighbors, shared a smile and learned their names.
We didn’t do much else that night except make a note of our neighbors’ names and where they lived. But the next time we saw them we were able to call some by name. Being in the neighborhood began to feel more like Charlie and the gang rather than being alone as a family behind enemy lines.
Being in the neighborhood began to feel more like Charlie and the gang rather than being alone as a family behind enemy lines.
God took our family, our anxieties, and the tension we were feeling and allowed us to make a plan to see Halloween as His opportunity to meet the people around us. He used it as an opportunity for us to begin to love and enjoy the people around us, for new relationships to begin in our neighborhood, some of which could eventually point people to Jesus.
As Halloween approaches this year our family is making our Great Pumpkin Plan for meeting people in another new neighborhood. What will God do that starts on this night and develops over the coming years? What doors will be open? We will know soon, but we will surely be looking for the open doors and opportunities to simply learn names, write them down, and begin praying that God would bring some new friends and relationships with people in our neighborhood.
Do you view Halloween as an intentional opportunity? Maybe this is a new idea, and that’s okay! What plan could you create this year? Get creative, be intentional, and love the people around you, whether in your neighborhood or the party you’ve been invited to. Look for the opportunities God puts before you to be in relationship so that you might point people to Jesus at the opportune time, even if that time is in the future after a relationship has been built.
And know that Jesus loves you. His freedom and love are His gift for you as you live in the tension of Halloween, not behind enemy lines but engaged as His disciple.