Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

By any other name

Posted on 30 Oct 2013 in Culture, Discipleship, missional theology | 2 comments

I have a group of friends that at a certain time each year, delight in giving each other presents. They have found that this routine brings them life as both a giver and receiver. They love to do nothing more than celebrate together the joy of being in each other’s presence. There is plenty of good food, loud music, sports on TV, and of course, laughter. It happens every year in the dead of winter, as a way to bring some life to a seemingly endless season of death. There are holiday greetings, a round of communion, some favorite hymns, and a reflection on sacred texts like the Gospel of Matthew chapters one and two, and the Gospel of Luke chapters one and two. Sprinkled in are a few texts from prophets longs ago, great men and women of the faith who would announce the coming of a redemptive king, one whose rule would never end, and a kingdom where peace and prosperity are given to all.

Every year, right around the 25th of of december.

But please don’t think they celebrate Christmas, they celebrate ‘baby born in winter national appreciation day.’


Sounds pretty ridiculous doesn’t it?

So does a group of Christians dressed up in costumes that celebrate “Harvest Festival.” To a watching world, we seem to want to pick and choose what parts of the holiday they we want to celebrate (gluttony, fairy-tale imagination) while disliking some of the perceived evils that we see in the holiday (Satan worship, child sacrifice, ghosts and goblins). But we fail to realize three key things:

  1. To them (those that come to our Harvest Parties) we are celebrating Halloween, they just leave dumbfounded why we can’t bring ourselves to say the word. By every indication in the story above, you would think that my friends celebrate Christmas, there is no reason to think otherwise. Yet you’re baffled when they celebrate ‘baby born in winter national appreciation day’. So too are those watching the church: they are baffled why we celebrate Halloween but can’t enjoy it.
  2. The ills of Halloween (child sacrifice, et al) I’ve never actually done, or wanted to do as a result of going to a “Halloween party.” While we may not be at ease with all that Halloween promotes, or the activities that people seem to do on that night, it is no reason to run from it, in fact, I see quite the opposite mandate in scripture. We should be at the forefront of God’s redemptive process. We see a world that is lost and hurting, and for some reason have thought it OK to leave it that way. We should find ways to not only celebrate Halloween, but do so in ways that bring life and joy to those around us.
  3. We do the same thing when we complain about removing “Christ from CHRIST-mas”. They learned it from us, we were getting down with harvest parties long before ‘they’ removed Jesus from December 25th. Let’s stop and take the plank out of our own eye first.

    Halloween 2006

    (Photo credit: Terry.Tyson)

So here are a couple of suggestions this year:

  1. Celebrate the real Halloween. Don’t change the name, don’t nice it up, don’t give it a lame Christian name. If it looks like a duck and quacks likes a duck, well, you know. Don’t dress up to give out candy and then tell the kids that are also doing so how they are going to hell. Let Halloween be fun and magical.
  2. Be above and beyond gracious. People are looking for an alternate reality at times, because they may not be all that thrilled with the way their life is going right now. Halloween allows them to escape as their favorite characters, people, places, and stories. Let them enjoy it, and remember that you carry with you at all times a story so real and sweet that they would jump at the chance to know a risen Jesus that loves them more passionately and deeply then they could ever imagine.
  3. Make sure you have the best party. You’ve got the best story you could ever share don’t you? Shouldn’t you therefore be known as the person with the most to party for?

Happy Halloween.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • Hi Justin, I loved this post. I get so tired of the weird compulsion in church culture to substitute things like this, rebrand it and stick it inside a church and say it’s a better way to do things (like your example with the “harvest parties”). I used to love stuff like that when I was deep in the fundamentalist vein of the church, but now that I am in a very different place, the whole thing seems kind of hyper-sanitary and ridiculous. So, thank you for your post. 🙂

    • Thanks Deanna, glad to hear you enjoyed it. I remember as a kid always going to fall harvest parties (sanctioned by the church) and not being allowed to call it a Halloween party. Never made much sense as a kid, and much less now.

      It’s interesting the way we try to clean up stuff like this so we can still have the fun we secretly want to anyway.

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