It’s that time of year. Time to dress your kids up as their favorite superhero and give them a bag to gather candy. They’ll run around with other kids while you stand back and talk to other adults. If they’re lucky, they’ll get to play some games. Carve some pumpkins. Bob for apples. All sorts of fun stuff.
All at your church’s Fall Festival.
Wait, did you think I was talking about . . . Halloween? How could I talk about that? I’m a Christian! (Is there a sarcasm punctuation mark?)
Fall Festivals are, to put it lightly, the stupidest thing churches do every year. And that is putting it lightly.
Does Jesus hate fun?
If there’s one thing Christians love, its taking fun stuff and manufacturing a bunch of hang ups about it until it’s no longer fun.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s a list of things Christians have made not fun: drinking, dancing, sex, R-rated movies, Rock and Roll. I recently heard a dude say Christians shouldn’t watch sports because it is idolatry. Take anything fun and some Christian somewhere is keeping a blog about how that thing is a sin.
Kids don’t care about the reasons you’re keeping them away. They only care about the candy and costumes. Seinfeld got it right when he said, “The first ten years of my life, I think the only clear thought I had was: ‘Get candy.’”
When you keep your kids from Halloween, you teach them that being a Christian is about not having fun. It is all serious business and there is no room for candy or costumes (unless you’re high church, then costumes are encouraged).
But we’re not talking about not having any fun, Fall Festivals are fun!
Does Jesus do everything terribly?
You know what else Christians love? Bad versions of things non-Christians do.
Why does there have to be a crappy Christian version of everything? There are actually charts to help you find a Christian alternative to your favorite nonChristian band.
The problem with Fall Festivals is that we already have a better version of them called Halloween. We’re just creating a Christian version and trying to pretend that the real one doesn’t exist. But it does exist and no matter how much we put our heads in the sand (or the apple bobbing bucket), it is still out there.
And we’re in here.
Does Jesus hate his neighbor?
Ultimately the problem with Fall Festivals is that they are isolating. If we’re a city set on a hill, why do we feel the need to build such high walls?
There is one night a year where everyone is out in the neighborhood with their kids, getting to know each other, participating in the community of your neighborhood, showing love to each others kids.
And you’re at your Fall Festival.
Halloween is the MOST Christian holiday. It is the most engaging, community building, outreach of the year. There is no better place to love your neighbor and your neighbor’s kids. There is no better chance to build relationships with those who may not know Christ. When you’re at Fall Festivals you aren’t hiding from paganism, you’re hiding from people.
The Third Way
I get it though. Halloween is dark. Maybe you don’t want to be confused with that, and that is respectable, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
Jesus provides a third way.
In John 2, Jesus was at a wedding reception and they ran out of wine. This was a celebration of a new marriage and the party was supposed to be as extravagant as possible; running out of anything, especially wine, would ruin the party.
Jesus steps in and makes wine out of water. Did I mention that this is Jesus’ first miracle? His first miracle was just to keep a party going. Jesus loves fun.
When the headwaiter tastes the miracle wine, he goes to the groom and tells him, “Usually people serve the good wine first and the bad wine last. But you saved the best wine for last.”
What does this mean? Jesus made awesome wine. He didn’t make watered down wine, kool-aid, or grape juice. He made the kind of stuff the guys in Sideways talk about. Jesus doesn’t do anything terribly. Jesus does everything exceptionally.
Having enough wine at a wedding was so important they actually hired a guy called the head waiter to make sure that they didn’t run out. If they start to run out of wine, the head waiter is supposed to tell the groom, who gives him permission to go buy some more.
If they run out of wine at the feast it makes the headwaiter and the groom look incompetent. It would be embarrassing for the bride (and the father who allowed her to marry this deadbeat) and would ruin the reputation of this family before it even got started.
This first miracle might seem small compared to some of the other things Jesus did, but try to say that to the bride and groom. Try to explain to the head waiter how it isn’t really a big deal. Tell the bride’s father it isn’t important.
Jesus did a small thing that was exactly what his neighbor needed at the moment.
Jesus loves fun. He does things well. And he loves his neighbor where they are.
This year, don’t shut yourself up in a church parking lot. Turn on your porch lights, give out full sized candy bars, and know that you are loving your community exactly how they need to be loved.