It is interesting that Halloween, which we celebrate this weekend, is such a divisive day in the realm of Christendom. Some Christians see nothing wrong with this time and some see it as something to be avoided as supporting evil.
We forget the origins of this day come from Christian roots. The word itself comes from the same word we use in the Lord's prayer - 'Hallowed by thy name' is the same 'hallow' we find in the name Halloween and means 'Holy.' Halloween is 'holy eve' - the eve before All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls Day on Nov. 2 when it was believed that the dead souls would rise on this one evening and walk about before they would be honored over the next two days.
In ancient times, the people would dress in costumes to ward off the spirits of the evil people who rose with all the souls. It was an ancient practice and over the years all of the other elements associated with Halloween - the ghosts and goblins and witches - became a part of this evening. Trick or treating became the predominant celebration of Halloween in our life and became a fun evening when children look forward to going from house to house to collect candy.
But in more recent memory, the fun aspect of Halloween has been overshadowed by problems and changing attitudes and emphasis on the unpleasant aspects of Oct. 31. Dwelling on the gruesome nature has taken a time of fun and enjoyment and colored this event to the point where many churches and communities have campaigned to ban the day and the time of trick or treat. Schools now have fall festivals instead of a Halloween parties and many have in fear and, in my opinion, misunderstandings, turned off their porch light and refused to participate.
But, look at this time from another perspective. Remember all of the many stories in scripture where God takes those incidents, which on the surface appear to be evil, and God turned them into good. Think of Joseph, whose brothers dumped him into a pit, sold him into slavery and told his father he had been killed. Joseph, who continued to suffer for many years in Egypt, eventually through God's work, ended up in power and saved a nation and his own family. Joseph told his brothers who were worried Joseph was going to retaliate against them that what they had meant for harm, God had meant for good.
Out of something evil and tragic, came the saving of God's people. Jesus is another very obvious example. The Jewish leaders meant for Jesus to die and the Roman's meant for Jesus to suffer and out of this horrible act came the salvation of the world. What man meant for harm, God used for the ultimate good.
I use to live in a rather large neighborhood in which all the houses were fairly close together. We were a working class neighborhood, most of us had children, and so we rarely saw anyone else in the neighborhood because we were so busy working, shuttling children and taking care of our homes. This one night of the year, everyone in the neighborhood would come out and sit on our porches or steps and we would catch up with one another, talking back and forth across the street and to the neighbors beside of each other.
It was such an enjoyable time reconnecting with people that we didn't have time to see any other day of the year. Then, the parade of children would begin and we had well over 300 children who would walk up and down the street from house to house and again we were able to see families and again we would get caught up with people we very rarely were able to see any other night. There was laughter and fun and parents and guardians reminding children to say "thank you."
While some may see this time - Halloween and trick or treat - as evil and something to be avoided, remember the good that can come out of this evening in the fellowship and friendship and just seeing families out together walking around the neighborhoods. There is laughter and smiles and simple activity - something rare in our lives these days.
God can do wondrous work in the midst of people coming together and this should be what we celebrate on this evening and this time of year.