Over the past two months we have focused on being good stewards for our great and gracious God. This month I want to ask you to take a closer look at the culture in which we live and ask ourselves what we might learn from our common cultural celebrations. What seems to be important to us as a society that we will spend our time, talent, and treasure on these particular holidays? Why do we carve out time from our normal schedules for these days? Why decorate our homes, ourselves, and even our pets? How much is spent?
Halloween marks the beginning of the end of the year focus on shopping with Christmas being the culmination. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all celebrated in some way by most if not all of our neighbors and ourselves. How should we be thinking about these ‘holidays’?
As we observe our society’s priorities we can draw some conclusions. And as we examine our current practices around the holidays we can glean some important insights by comparing the present to the past. How, for example, was Thanksgiving celebrated differently in 1930, 1970, and 2010? But why should we care? Two related reasons: (1) We live in this culture and so it is influencing us; have we unconsciously assimilated in ways that are hindering our Christian lives or witness? (2) We live in this culture which means that this is our mission field! Do we understand it in ways that help us reach our neighbors and teach them about Jesus?
I’ll let you do your own analysis, the point here is simply to start us all thinking and talking about this together. Halloween is just past and the amount of money we spend on this holiday is staggering. I couldn’t remember exactly the figures I saw in the newspaper, so I went online and found an article from last year in The Atlantic in which Bourree Lam reports that Americans spent $2 billion dollars on Halloween candy alone every year from 2011-2013!
Just how much do Americans spend on trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities? The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts total Halloween spending—including candy, costumes, and decorations—to come in at $7.4 billion this year .
Can we as Christians think carefully about Halloween—not just its evils or excesses—about how we might better understand our neighbors or see opportunities to share the Gospel? In an interesting article about the origins of Halloween entitled “Festival of Fears”, the author, Elesaha Coffman surveys the history of the day and suggests that changes in how Halloween has been observed over the years “may stem from its role as a screen for projected anxieties.” If that is correct, isn’t it interesting to think about what Halloween costumes are most popular each year? Ask your parents and grandparents if they dressed up, or what they remember of trick-or-treating. And if there is a fascination with vampires or zombies one year does that tell us anything constructive? Does that provide an opening to talk to our neighbors about life after death and immortality? Does the way Halloween is currently celebrated provide a chance for us to examine our own hearts about the fascination with evil that resides in every fallen human’s heart? And not to get too esoteric, it seems evident that we would do well to consider the influence of our culture when it comes to Thanksgiving too. Do we remember when gluttony was declared by the church to be one of the seven deadly sins? Is it legitimate to see our love of football as bordering on idolatry, i.e. sinful worship? I personally am persuaded that our own culture is becoming increasingly pagan. Perhaps we had better be thinking more and more like foreign missionaries as we look for opportunities to make disciples. The early church in Acts shows us that Christians can thrive in a pagan culture and the church, by God’s strong grace, can grow. Let’s reevaluate how we celebrate these common holidays in our culture.
We know that being a good steward of God’s gifts means using our time, talent, and treasure wisely in accordance with the guidelines God has given us in His Word and for His glory. And we know that we are to be witnesses to the world around us to God’s grace and the salvation He offers in His Son, Jesus Christ. Please think of yourselves and your families as missionaries this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Who can you invite into either your home to celebrate and share the love of Christ? International students are often open and eager to understand our traditions, how neat it would be to tell them that these holidays are much more than the surrounding culture says! Is there anyone you can invite into more than a cursory conversation about the why as well as the way you celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas?
Maybe, by God’s grace, we can shine a light through the window of these holidays into the soul of our friends and neighbors.
Praying you know Christ’s blessing this season,
From the November LRPC Newsletter