Olympus has fallen. The old gods are dead. Poseidon is drowned in the sea of forgetfulness and Zeus has been plucked from the heavens. Like Dagon before them, they have all bowed at the feet of the Living God and lost their heads in the process.
The resurrected Christ has vanquished the principalities and powers that stood behind these demonic deities, and by virtue of an empty tomb and occupied throne, has chained them to his chariot wheels as a demonstration of lordly triumph (Col. 2:15).
The names of the deposed are now but distant memories. No longer does one think of Viking lords when we mention Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Yet even the most recalcitrant secularist is reminded that Sunday is regarded by millions as the Lord’s Day—for on Sunday the Son rose.
In the beginning, God created dates and days, separated times and seasons, and then pronounced them good. Pagans, with their pygmy gods, usurped the days God claimed for himself. They sought to fill them with significance, but ultimately failed because they were already full. Then, in a dramatic turn of events, God turned the world upside down, shook those days loose, and reclaimed them for himself. The Strong Man entered Death’s house and plundered his goods (Matt. 12:29). Death was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. The Culprit even made off with the house keys (Rev. 1:18). Among other things, this means that the devil has no days. When Jesus died and rose again, he conquered sin and death—but he also conquered the calendar.
Our times are in his hands because time itself is in his hands, as all things are (Ps. 31:15, Col. 1:16-20). And everything that is in his hands will eventually be under his feet (Ps. 110:1). This is the victory of God, the promise of the gospel: Behold, he is making all things new (Rev. 21:5).
For Christians, this is both cause to rejoice and a call to action. We rejoice because our God reigns. We respond in faith by joining with our King in taking back lost territory. Such is the mission of the Church. Christ set up an outpost at the gates of hell and is beating down its high walls. Eventually, those walls will crumble. We have it on good authority that the enemy’s gates cannot prevail (Matt. 16:18).
Each time a person bows the knee to Christ, those gates are rocked by another blow. Every conversion opens a new fissure. With every new birth, one more square foot of territory is possessed behind enemy lines.
Most recognize this principle as it pertains to personal evangelism, but it pertains to everything else as well. Even days. If the name of Christ is to be sanctified at all times and in all places, then it should be declared at all times and in all places. Including days that we formerly eschewed as belonging to the opposition.
Every time the sun rises, we are reminded that Christ has ascended, having finished his work—but we have not yet finished ours. Thus, century by century, the Christian faith rolls back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition. In the spirit of Elijah, we mock the dead gods and the defeated demons because they have no rightful claim here (1 Kings 18:27). Halloween, then, is for the Christian a satirical pageant; a mockery of long-defeated foes.
Our forebears adopted the same taunting attitude when they decorated their sacred spaces. Gargoyles placed atop cathedrals were carefully crafted gibes. The ridiculous beasts wag their tongues and make faces at Christianity’s assailants. Gargoyles were architectural trash-talk, more emblematic of hilarity than horror. That grotesque statuary was the artistic equivalent of the court jester; jokesters enjoying a secret laugh before an army of unwitting fools. In like manner, Christianity claims dominion over times and seasons. What once may have been regarded as festivals of fear and wickedness now become celebrations of joy and gladness.
Some might object and say, “But Halloween was a day that was filled with evil superstitions.” To which we might reply, “But who has the right to fill it? And with what?”
When October 31 dawns I can paint my face like a ghoulish creature and giggle because I know that Christ has “unhaunted” this world. Jesus has defanged the vampires, dehorned the dragons, tamed the werewolves, and displaced all principalities and powers. When we send our kids to a neighbor’s door to say, “Trick or treat,” we can smile knowing that the joke is on the devil. This is deep comedy.
What will I do on Halloween? I honestly don’t know. But I will probably get up and say what I say every other day that God allows me to live: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).
J. Brandon Meeks is theologian-in-residence at his Anglican parish in Arkansas.
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