Just over one hundred and fifty years ago, Blacks in the United States gathered in churches and private homes to await the New Year and the first day of when the Emancipation Proclamation served as the law of the land. Still, in many churches and African American communities, “Watch Nights” are occurring as New Year’s Eve countdowns to midnight with hands held, songs of praise sung, and knees knelt in prayer.
Take an opportunity in this New Year to not make a repressive resolution in your life but to celebrate a freedom or two. Freedom, Blessed John Paul reminded us when he visited Baltimore many years ago, consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. Celebrate your own God-given freedoms and emancipation in 2014 by doing what it is that you ought.
You Ought to be Grateful: Try not to focus on the scarcity in your life as much as upon the overwhelming grace that is present. Take opportunities to celebrate, praise, and recognize all that is good around you. A thank-you note or call to friends, family, and collaborators is always appreciated as is a brief prayer to your Creator.
You Ought to be Forgiven: Start acting as if you really believed it… Christ died for our sins. Often the only person still clutching onto our past mistakes and misdeeds is ourselves. We confess that which we have done and that which we have failed to do and then we seek to live reconciled lives. If others cannot let go of it, that is on them.
You Ought to be Busy: The sixth question in the Baltimore Catechism Why did God make you? The answer is quite easy and yet all the so complicated. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. There is quite the checklist for the New Year… knowing, loving, serving, and being happy. Moments should not be wasted when opportunities abound for knowing, loving, serving, and being happy.
On Watch Night, a spiritual such as this might be sung:
Look where God has brought us,
look how far we’ve come,
we’re not what we ought to be,
we’re not what we used to be
Thank You, Lord, thank You, Lord,
for what You’ve done!
May this refrain echo throughout our lives in the new year.