Who's Afraid of Halloween?
Should Christians participate in Halloween? It's a question many struggle with. After all, it feels like a celebration of evil, a holiday devoted to the demonic. But what if I told you the opposite is true. Halloween isn't a celebration of evil, but a mockery of evil. It's actually a humiliating night for the devil, and he would much prefer you turn off your porch lights, stay hidden inside, and save him the embarrassment.
In the Christian tradition, November 1 is All Saints Day—a day set aside to honor and celebrate the triumph of saints who have gone before us, especially our martyred brothers and sisters. A more historic word for ‘saint’ is ‘hallow’, and so the day was originally known as All Hallows’ Day. An important part of the celebration involved the night before, All Hallows’ Eve. Thus the contraction "Halloween" came to be.
The tradition of Halloween is a celebration of our confidence over the demonic realm. Ephesians 6 lets us in on the truest nature of our fight: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” So on the eve of the day we remember those who fought the good fight, it is appropriate to celebrate that in Christ they actually won that good fight.
Unlike what we see in Hollywood, Satan’s terror is not haunted houses or possessed children. It's something much scarier. Accusations. He is our great accuser, and there is much to accuse us of. We have fallen shamefully short of God’s law, and God’s justice demands our punishment. In this way, our failures serve as Satan’s ammunition against God, because hell can now justly demand from God what God cherishes the most, His beloved people. Satan temps, we sin, Satan accuses, God must condemn, and that, in essence, is the ploy of the evil one.
And yet All Hallows’ Day celebrates the triumph, not the condemnation, of the saints. How can this be when there is seemingly no escape from the Satan’s accusations and God’s condemnation? 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
It’s the great exchange we celebrate in the reformation (by the way, the tradition of All Hallows’ Eve is why Martin Luther chose October 31 as the day to post his 95 theses). Jesus takes our sin and is condemned as such, we receive His righteousness and are accepted as such. Therefore, God in the gospel of Christ has stripped Satan of all ammunition, leaving him nothing to accuse us of.
Colossians 2 says it perfectly: “Having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Jesus.”
The cross of Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities of evil, and in this way put them to shame, so that Calvary is simultaneously our victory and Satan’s mockery. And that’s exactly what we do on All Hallows’ Eve—we mock Satan. So confident are we in the triumph of Jesus, that we literally have a holiday set aside to ridicule Satan. We will take what should be scary—devil, demons, and death—and turn them into an occasion for a neighborhood party. In fact, we're so confident in Christ that we will actually dress our children up as a mockery of evil, because for the Christian, Satan is as scary as a kid in a mask.
As an aside, Halloween is a great opportunity to teach your children that the gospel is so powerful that we can laugh at what should be terrifying. As a practical suggestion, before going out to trick-or-treat read Luke 4:31-37 or Mark 2:2-7 with them and ask this question: Who’s scared of who in this passage?
Halloween is not something Christians should be afraid to celebrate; quite the opposite. Halloween is a night of gospel surety and hell’s mockery. What should scare us is scared of our Jesus. So go have some fun tonight at hell’s expense and talk a little trash to the devil.
- Rev. Robert Cunningham