Halloween – the holiday of darkness, spooks, candy, and costumes galore. USA Today* reports that Americans spent $8.4B on Halloween candy in 2016, breaking a historical record. 2017 candy spending is expected to be $9.1B, breaking last year’s record. Halloween is a national party – one giant haunting sugar rush. Americans love Halloween. Yet, I have two questions for you. Do you know how many of your Christian neighbors and friends are keeping their lights on and doors open tonight? Or, how many aren’t?
According to a 2006 Gallup poll**, we find that 26% of Evangelicals object to celebrating Halloween, and 45% opt to close their doors and turn out the lights. Nearly half turn out their lights. This statistic is fairly stark against the name “Evangelical,” and it begs that the proverbial question be answered, “What would Jesus do?”
I’d like to think that if someone came knocking on my door, whatever the reason may be, I’d be welcoming – just as Christ was to me. I know that Christians tend to think of Halloween as the night where the world goes raging in madness over sin. So, we buy the giant spider webs and lanky skeleton yard décor, but we stay away from the spiky demon horns and sexy witch costumes. It seems like the night we’re in a world that’s celebrating Satan, hell, demonic spirits, and evil; and we realize we’re surrounded by darkness. However, we must remember that the picture of tonight’s darkness is a fair assessment of what engulfs a world in sin – everyday. In the midst of the everyday, we can’t forget what is staunchly more real and lasting than the physical things we lay our aging eyes on. What we see is darkness, but when all we see fades to dust, there is eternal fire. The lost world lives in darkness today, but whether it’s a neighbor, a friend, a stranger you meet – their eternal world is on fire. And tonight, the only thing that stands between you and them is a door.
I’ll ask you to remember what you were like when Christ came to answer your knocking at his door. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” He cracked the door to see who was outside in the darkness, and the light poured through the gap onto you. His radiance bounced against all the darkness, revealing by light all the things that had been hidden about you. You cowered in your sin because your darkness was fleeing, and you saw what glory was overcoming in you – calling you to enter in. Right there you stood – realizing what a broken, dark place you were in. It had been comfortable until now, and you had to decide whether to stay there or leave that place. If you walked through the door, you’d have to walk into the light – revealing more and more of the things that your darkness had shrouded. Knowing only the glimpse of what waited on the other side, you gave over your fear, your shame, and your sinful selfishness when you realized what glory was waiting for you on the other side of that door. You crossed that threshold, and it was because a door had been opened to you.
Tonight, the very same situation presents itself to us as Christ’s followers. The world is knocking on our doors tonight, and we have the choice to answer the door, just as Christ answered us. Now, I’m not saying our doors are full of glory and grace like his, because we are only human. But, we are his vessels of grace, and his light radiates through us. If we are not answering our doors and letting our lights shine, because we feel a genuine disdain for the world and its sin – then we are not following Christ as he commanded us.
Indeed, we have been commanded to do two very distinct tasks as Christians. Mark 16:15 offers us a picture of Jesus talking to the disciples, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” So, we’re told to go into the world – into the place where darkness abounds and sin runs rampant. We’re told to go because we’re like the kid hired for the Sunday morning paper. If he isn’t willing to wake up before the rest of the world and do the job he’s trained for, then no one will receive the Sunday morning newspaper. So, unless you’re a Christian who’s willing to go into this world, even in the times when it is most uncomfortable, you will be missing out on that first task: reaching all creation. You will miss out on your potential, because you’re supposed to go.
The second task is plain. You may be trying to reach people for Christ, but you may have reservations about rolling up your sleeves and joining in the Halloween hubbub. Do you know what Christ would tell you? Keep your lights on and open that door. Matthew 5: 14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” You have been given an eternal and heavenly light. Your light is not to be hidden, and like we teach our little ones to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Something is really unique for Christians about Halloween night. Christian folks talk left-and-right about wanting to go out on the mission field, but on this one night of the year, the mission field knocks on your door. You might be asking yourself every day, “How can I better reach out to this lost world around me?” I know I do, and I bet you do, too. There’s a moment in the Bible that answers that very question.
Looking at the disciples in John 21: 3-6, “‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So, they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” Christ has called each and every one of us to get into this world and preach the good news of salvation. Jesus called the disciples in Matthew 4:19, “And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”
Christ has given you both the command and capacity to be a fisher for souls, and tonight’s the night where you can decide to climb into your boat and go out. You may have chosen before to shut out the lights and stay away from the choppy waters of a sinful, dark world – choosing to stay more comfortable in your calm seas with the few fish. Yet, Christ calls us to cast our nets into the places where the world resides. We sometimes have to change our expectations of where we need to fish, because we are meant to brave the darkness and shine our lights.
I encourage you tonight – fish are coming to your door, and you can choose to cast your net. Remember your darkness, and remember what Christ did while you were still comfortable there. People need Christ, and they’re knocking on your door. Christ opened his door to you, and glory changed your life. Therefore, amp up your electricity bill, remember the light of Christ that is in you, and don’t be afraid to cast it on the world God loves. Halloween may be a night where darkness abounds, but remember – this is the day that the Lord has made. His light shined the midst of your sinful self, and you should let your light shine into the world. So, get your candy, get your costume, get your light, get out there, and good luck!