Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays. Somehow I seem to be lacking the creativity gene necessary to enjoy thinking up and assembling an ingenious costume. For me that process is not enjoyable; it is a laborious chore.
It wasn’t always that way. Of course, as a young child, we don’t have much of a choice about whether we dress up for Halloween or what we wear. Our parents make those choices, and their primary criterion for a costume seems to be cuteness. And how hard is it to make a little child look cute? When we get old enough to express our own preferences for a costume, we usually choose to dress up as someone we admire or aspire to be like. A beautiful princess. A resourceful superhero. An intrepid adventurer. Then, when we reach our preteen or teen years, the primary requirements for a costume become that it be cool, clever, and creative, in that order. Generally, those same requirements stay with us from that point on, though as we mature, cool becomes slightly less important than clever and creative.
In perusing some of the New Testament passages that discuss how we should “dress up,” the idea seems to be closest to the children who dress up as someone they admire or aspire to be like. Of course as Christians, the person we most admire and aspire to be like is Christ. But how do we dress up like Jesus? Put on a robe and a pair of sandals?
Webster’s dictionary defines a costume as “an outfit worn to create the appearance characteristic of a particular period, person, place, or thing.” And we do want to put on that which creates the appearance characteristic of Christ. But we are not called to clothe ourselves as Christ, wearing robes and sandals, but to clothe ourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (NAS).
But what does that look like? Colossians 3:12-14 describes what those who are clothed with Christ should “put on”: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Being clothed with Christ is not primarily about changing our external appearance, but rather it is about an inner change of heart resulting from the fact that we are holy and beloved, chosen of God. And out of this new identity will flow external changes in the way we live.
So on Halloween, maybe instead of—or at least in addition to—putting on a Halloween costume, we can demonstrate the fact that we have been clothed with Christ by taking the opportunity to act toward someone with the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, or love of Christ, who lives in us. Even better, maybe we can make it a point to exhibit these characteristics every day.