it began with a prayer
Newly married, nine years ago we moved into a housing scheme in the East End of Glasgow. Right from the beginning of being there we were trying to work out how to live there incarnationally as Christians—bringing the light of Jesus into our neighbourhood with us. We tried a few things early on, but nothing seemed to be clicking, so we prayed, and asked God to show us how we could engage with our neighbours and the community round about us.
a gentle nudging
On Halloween of the first year we lived here, we had gotten home from work and were starting to get dinner sorted when the door bell rang ... we opened it to shouts of ‘trick or treat’ from a huge group of local children! Neither of us came from a family where Halloween was a night where we’d head out to go round the doors, so naturally enough we’d both forgotten all about it. We had no sweets ready, and nothing to give, so we had to have the awkward “Sorry, we have nothing for you!” chat repeatedly as our door bell rang and rang into the night.
The following year we remembered on the way home from work that it was Halloween, so we swung into our local Morrison’s on the way home. Lo and behold, they were sold out of sweets! We got home and had a decision to make—faced with the prospect of an evening having ‘that’ awkward conversation over and over again we decided to hide out in our kitchen! We turned the lights off and stayed in the back of the house listening to the doorbell ring all night. Not exactly incarnational living, is it?
The next year we decided to go out for the night, rather than sit in and listen to the doorbell go again. It was starting to dawn on us that although Halloween isn’t exactly our favourite night of the year, it is certainly a popular one in our community and we couldn’t head out for the night every year on October 31st, could we? God was gently nudging us to do something about it, even if we didn’t realise it then.
A shift in attitude
Over the next year something changed. We don’t know exactly what it was, but we began to read lots of articles about how we should respond to Halloween celebrations as Christians. We mused over how Jesus might respond if his doorbell was being rung all evening, and were pretty convicted that he definitely wouldn’t have turned the lights off to hide!
And so, our whole attitude towards Halloween changed. When we read the Bible, we can see how generous Jesus was: He was generous with Himself; generous with His time; generous in sharing food with other people; generous with the grace in which He responded when people demanded something from Him…
Little lights on a dark night
And so we were challenged on our attitudes and actions. We decided that, even though Halloween was still not our favourite night, we needed to be generous in how we shared our time, our talents and our food. We needed to be like Jesus. We needed to shine as little lights in our community on a night which celebrates the dark.
That Halloween we wheeled our BBQ out to the street. We hunted down any charcoal we could find left in shops (which is difficult in October!), bought a few sausages and rolls, filled some flasks with tea and coffee, and lit a small army of candles around the end of our driveway. We began to serve our neighbours rather than hiding away. We began to respond how we thought Jesus might if He lived here today.
Every Halloween since then, we have been doing the exact same thing (including the last minute scramble to find and buy charcoal)! In just a few years, it’s grown from a dozen sausages to serving over 90 hot dogs this past Halloween. We have kids and their parents say that ours is the first house they head for on Halloween night, and we are often queued down the street as we try to keep up with the demand for a Halloween hot dog. God is good, isn’t He?! What an amazing opportunity to serve our community for Him, and become more like Jesus!
Now that we have kids of our own who are old enough to know about Halloween, we are trying to teach them about why we have our Halloween BBQ, and about the importance of serving others generously. Serving Jesus and your community doesn’t have to be about a big event, and it isn't always fancy or glamorous; sometimes it’s simply going out your front door and cooking a few sausages on the BBQ, instead of turning the lights off and hiding in your kitchen.
He gives us stories ///
Throughout Advent, Refuge is posting a selection of stories of God’s work in our lives. Each morning of Advent, we will be sharing these stories for the encouragement and upbuilding of the Church—and to testify to His greatness. For the series introduction click here.
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