Halloween is a dark holiday, but I don’t find it very scary. Costumes and plastic skeletons don’t intimidate me. It’s all pretend, and for most people, the main point is sugar. I find the news headlines in my Twitter feed a lot more terrifying. Some of the themes are the same—darkness, death, and evil running free. I guess the decorative ghosts and tombstones and skeletons do contain an element of realism: there is real darkness in this world, and real death. At our point in history, there’s no question that the real skeletons on this planet outnumber the living humans by a long shot. That’s a sobering thought. And there are plenty of other fears for those of us who aren’t skeletons yet—from disease and disaster to dystopian decisions and disturbing trends and growing disorder and disunity, you don’t have to look far to get a fright these days.
In Luke 21, Jesus warned his disciples about difficult days that were coming. He said, “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.” Does that sound familiar? But he tells his disciples: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The contrast is stark: people are fainting with terror and apprehension, but Jesus says, “stand up and lift up your heads”. Not because the fear isn’t legitimate, or the troubles aren’t real or hard or devastating. He’s very clear: the trouble is real. But he’s also clear: the trouble is not the whole story. As he said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus didn’t encourage his disciples by saying that everything was going to be easy and beautiful and comfortable. He said that trouble was coming and that it would be significant, that life would be hard and heavy, but that they could lift up their heads anyway, because the power of darkness and death has been destroyed. “Your redemption is near.”
After Halloween comes Christmas—the light of the world entered the darkness, and at Easter, overcame it once and for all.
The Christian response to the threats of darkness and death in this broken world is never to downplay or deny them. Neither do we faint in terror and worry. No. We fix our eyes on the light of the world. Then we stand up, lift up our heads, and walk confidently into whatever darkness is before us. We are not those who live in apprehensive fear of what is coming on the world. We know that the light of the world has already come, and we know that the full day of his glorious kingdom is coming soon. If you are not trusting in Christ, then fear is a natural and appropriate response to the terrible realities of our world—but if you are in Christ, there is another reality: “your redemption is drawing near.”
Lift up your head.