A Holy Halloween

When we had our daughter, our entire world changed. I know, duh, right?! In particular, we started looking at the holidays and traditions we had as a family. One by one, we put them under a Godly microscope. A few years back, our pastor preached on the traditions surrounding Christmas; Santa, Christmas trees, etc. It was very helpful in determining what pieces of that holiday would help us teach Allie about Jesus’ birth. 
Halloween was not exempt as we examined our observance of it as well. I have read about this day’s history and encourage you to do so also. Parts of it hail from our forefathers in the Catholic Church, and parts of it are tied to the ancient pagan holiday of Samhain, where the people would host feasts to conjure up the dead and walk through two bonfires to cleanse themselves, etc. 

Initially, we decided we would not participate in the holiday at all. But God didn’t let it go there. Each year, I would hear from other believers who decided they could observe this holiday innocently... wholesome costumes and candy from area retailers, in family neighborhoods or from church “trunk or treat” events. And I was graced with a little girl that loves a good party! Already at four Halloween has become an obsession. The more we told her no, the more it grew in fascination for her. I began to fear that we were creating a Halloween “monster.” And for what?

I will spare you the hours of conversations, prayers and research that have gone into my October 31st conclusions. I know that each year we will revisit this challenging holiday and I may read this article in five years and see it all completely differently. That is the beauty of God. He continues to disciple us through the Spirit. So, here are some Halloween Scriptural treats, from me to you:

Psalm 118:24 reads, 
“This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” 

October 31st, every year, is a day God made. It is the day Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the church doors, starting a reformation revolution. It is Hallow’s Eve, a time of celebration leading up to All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. So, why am I trying to avoid it? Initially, we had decided to make it a fun day home from school for Allie. We were planning hayrides and pumpkin carving and lots of baking. But really all she heard at the age of four was “no trick or treating and no dressing up and no fun with your friends.” I have no problem telling her no, but again God was working in my Spirit, no for what?

So, my thought process continued. If I was going to let her celebrate Halloween, what did that look like? The holiday seems to be about two things to me, in its raw innocence... dressing up and getting loads of candy. Not factors worth celebrating for me, even if you do it “for the kids.” The next part of this story is cool. If you seek answers, God will provide them in His time. A friend of mine from back home posted an article from Christianity Today entitled “Matters of Opinion: Hallowing Halloween;
Why Christians Should Embrace the Devilish Holiday with Gusto - and Laughter.” This article provided a missing link for me. Matthew 5:13-16 reads, 
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

I had not factored these well-known verses into my Halloween considerations at all. And it changed a lot of things for me. What if we took Halloween back and made it the Christian holiday it can be? Churches, instead of just a “trunk or treat” alternative, what if we find ways to teach about the saints of our faith, we share scripture about the God who made this day and every other, you get the idea. Trick or treaters, what if your costume actually represented a saint from the past (what a conversation starter), what if instead of focusing on how much candy a kid can get, we honed in on how our child could bless the giver? My wheels are turning, let me tell you!

For this year, we are joining in the fun. A portion of John 16:16 reads, 
“I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit 
and that your fruit should remain...”

Our daughter plans to dress up like a princess, which she does pretty much every day of the year. I am reminded that our bodies are temples (1 Corinthians 6:19) so the costume should be conservative and appropriate; and any amount of candy received will be distributed sparingly by this Mama, who takes her responsibility very seriously. We are joining up with friends from church and giving away our own treats; card with a scripture verse on it that she’ll hopefully memorize and also to remind others of Psalm 34:8a, 
 Candy is good food but also “Taste and see that the Lord is good...”

And overall regarding Halloween, we will continue to prayerfully seek the right way to celebrate for our family. I want Allie to know about its Christian roots because they are interesting and important. Every year, we will evaluate the best way to participate in the party. When I ask our daughter why we celebrate Halloween I want her to be able to give an answer that is pleasing to God. We plan to keep the celebration going for a couple days (because historically they did too). Tomorrow we will honor the saints that have gone before us (Read Revelation 6:9-11 for a reminder of how precious they are to God). The following day we will learn about All Souls’ Day, which historically in Europe served as a version of our Memorial Day.

Halloween, I’ve got my spiritual eye on you. Making the holiday safe and innocent isn’t enough. Colossians 3:23 reads, 
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically as something 
done for the Lord and not for men.” 

I want to enthusiastically make Halloween something done for the Lord. 

Sharing Advent With Your Children

This is coming to you early, a post about the Advent season leading up to Christmas. But, I figure it gives you time to plan. When we decided to teach our daughter the Christmas story through the days of Advent, I looked around for a simple, daily devotional booklet that would allow us to celebrate a piece of the story each day leading up to Jesus' birthday celebration on Christmas. I couldn't find anything for what I had in mind. So, I wrote one... and now I pass it along to you. Let me know if you have any questions.

Advent Readings for Children
Prepared by: Traci Rhoades

Day 1 - Mary lived in the town of Nazareth. An angel named Gabriel came to her and said, “Good news! You’re going to have a baby.” (Luke 1:26-28)

Day 2 - Mary and Joseph planned to get married. Joseph knew Mary shouldn’t have a baby yet and he was hurt and angry. While he slept, he saw an angel in a dream who told him it was OK to get married because Mary’s baby was the Son of God - Jesus. (Matt. 1:20-21)

Day 3 - Mary had a relative named Elizabeth, who found out she was going to have a baby too. Jesus would have a cousin named John! Mary went to visit Elizabeth in a town located in the hill country of Judea. (Luke 1:13, 36, 39)

Day 4 - When Mary arrived at the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s belly leaped insider her and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. “Mary! You carry the Son of God,” Elizabeth said. (Luke 1:40-44)

Day 5 - After Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Mary went back to Nazareth and she and Joseph prepared to someday be married! (Luke 2:5)

Day 6 - Joseph and Mary learned that a ruler named Caesar wanted to count all the people in the land. This meant they would have to go to Bethlehem, the original town of Joseph’s family. (Luke 2:1)

Day 7 - So Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem, which was very far from their town of Nazareth. They couldn’t ride in a car like we do because there were no cars yet. They probably rode on a donkey and it was a journey of many days. (Luke 2:4)

Day 8 - After their long journey, they arrived in Bethlehem. But guess what?! They couldn’t find anywhere to stay! Time and again, they heard, “Sorry, no room in the inn. You can’t stay here; we’re full.” What were they going to do? (Luke 2:7)

Day 9 - One innkeeper was kind enough to let Mary and Joseph stay in his stable. So, they made a bed among the donkeys, cows and sheep. (Luke 2:7)

Day 10 - Once they got settled in to the stable, Mary realized she was getting ready to have the baby Jesus - among the donkeys, cows and sheep! And there was no one around to help them. (Luke 2:6)

Day 11 - Today’s story is the best part! Mary did have her baby that night, on Christmas. Baby Jesus!! Joseph helped her and they wrapped the Baby in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. (Luke 2:7)
Day 12 - The shepherds were watching sheep nearby. That very night, some angels came to them. It scared them a little! (Luke 2:8-9)

Day 13 - An angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid! Today a Savior is born, Christ the Lord.” He was joined by a whole choir of angels who sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men.” (Luke 2:10-14)

Day 14 - The shepherds obeyed the angels and went to Bethlehem looking for Jesus. Upon their arrival, it was just as they were told. They got to meet Baby Jesus - the very first visitors. (Luke 2:15-16)

Day 15 - After the shepherds left, the Bible tells us Mary remembered everything that happened that night. And she pondered the events in her heart as very special. (Luke 2:19)

Day 16 - After 40 days, the time needed for Mary to heal and feel better after having a baby, Mary and Joseph took Baby Jesus to church, or the temple, in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:22)

Day 17 - The first person that saw Baby Jesus at the temple was Simeon. He’d been told by God that although he was very old, he’d get to meet the Messiah. He took one look at Jesus, kissed His face and said, “Thank you God! This is our Messiah.” (Luke 2:25-35)

Day 18 - The next person to notice Jesus at the temple was a widow named Anna. She immediately knew Baby Jesus was the Messiah, who would save us. She thanked God for Him. (Luke 2:36-38)

Day 19 - Joseph and Mary brought Baby Jesus home from the temple in Jerusalem and they kept their little boy safe from King Herod and other enemies. King Herod would not like that there was now a “King of the Jews.” (Matt. 2:3,9)

Day 20 - The night Jesus was born, some Wise Men from the East took notice of a star. They knew this star meant the King of the Jews had been born. So they set off on a long journey to find Him. (Matt. 2:2)

Day 21 - Before the Wise Men made it to Jesus, they were called before the mean King Herod. He wanted to know all about the King Child they were looking to find. (Matt. 2:7-8)

Day 22 - Finally, after many months, the Wise Men arrived at the house where Jesus was staying. They worshiped Him and presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matt. 2:11)

Day 23 - Then, being warned in a dream that King Herod really wanted to hurt Jesus, the Wise Men went back home a different way. (Matt. 2:12)

Day 24 - With God’s help, Joseph and Mary did keep Jesus safe. He grew to be a man, our Savior sent from God. Because of Jesus, the sinful, bad things we do don’t have to keep us from God. That’s why Jesus’ birthday is the best birthday of all! (John 3:16, Romans 6:23)

Day 25 - MERRY CHRISTMAS! Celebrate by opening the final Advent door and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus.