"Established in African-American communities on December 31, 1862, Watch Night is a gathering to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation becoming law. When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 1863, all slaves in the Confederate States were proclaimed free. Since that date 146 years ago, African Americans have celebrated the good news of freedom in local churches on New Year's Eve. Like the slaves who first gathered while the Civil War rated on, we proclaim freedom for all captives in Jesus' name, knowing that for millions, freedom is not a reality. Our celebration is a commitment to join modern-day slaves and undocumented workers in their struggle for justice."
~ Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
The illustration is from an original 1863 Harper's Weekly newspaper depicting slaves being freed from a plantation.
Praise God for all the slaves in the past who have been set physically and spiritually free and all of those being set free at the present moment. But may we never forget the more than 25 million people, mostly women and children, who are still in physical bondage today, suffering unimaginable realities at the hands of cruel and callous hearts who have fallen prey to the darkness in this world.
May we also remember and rise up to help the countless more who experience harsh bondage to realities that are far beyond many of our grasps. Where everyday they work for hardly any pay, under conditions that are abominable. There are also people in all corners of the world suffering from the bondage of poverty, everyday making choices of whether to keep their houses warm or feed their children. Of whether to put gas in their cars or pay the electric company.
Many others still are those in spiritual bondage, maybe even some of us reading this blog. Where the pressures, circumstances, trials and sufferings of life have choked out the light from reaching our hearts and instead of feeling the love and reality of God we feel nothing but numbness or just blinding pain.
In this New Year, it is my hope that all of us as individuals turn to God in new ways, seeking new connections with our risen Lord and grow in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we make strong the body of Christ here on earth so that we may manifest God's Kingdom in our lifetime in our communities. May we see the light of God in those who are falling under the boot of tyranny and may we try in all our capacities to extend our hand to those reaching out in desparation and lift them out of bondage and into freedom, both physically and spiritually.
It is written in our holy Scriptures:
1 The Spirit of the
Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners.
May we lift the banner of light and truth and justice and overcome the slavery and persecution that so many face on this earth. May we be active participants of liberating our brothers and sisters in bondage in the capacity that God wills us to. Heaven help all of us if we sink into the moral depravity of apathy and mediocrity. We will be held accountable for our actions and our inactions. (Matthew 25:31-45) Let us be the servants Christ calls us to be and the servant who Christ, himself, was when he was here on earth ministering to the suffering, to the poor, to the sick and dying. Let this New Year be a year of growth where we become more and more like Jesus! And bring glory to our Father in Heaven by doing so.
I pray everyone has a happy and fruitful New Year!
38 "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.
2 Corinthians 2:13
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."