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Watch Night services bring thanksgiving, reflection

Around the world, New Year's Eve is one of the most celebrated occasions of the year. However, this time of year means different things for different folks.

We have just concluded a favorite time of year for many -- the closing of one year and the beginning of another.

Around the world, New Year's Eve is one of the most celebrated occasions of the year. However, this time of year means different things for different folks. While some were partying, kissing strangers and marveling at the beauty of fireworks, others were in church on their knees at watch night services.

Many religious people still hold watch night services, although most people probably do not know why. , for those who understand the origins of watch night, the meaning may be separated along racial/cultural lineTraditionallys.

For instance, the Moravians, who are distinguished as Caucasian European Protestant Christians, launched the first watch night service in Hernhut, Germany, in 1733. The first watch night held in America was in 1770 after John Wesley established the Covenant Renewal Services in America.

The Wesleyan group (Methodists) held their services in Philadelphia monthly and upon every full moon. Both the Moravians and the Methodists held their services on New Year's Eve for the same purpose -- to "watch" over and to consider their past as a kind of self-examination to determine their readiness for the possibility of the Lord's coming.

Almost a century later, in 1862, African-Americans began holding their watch night services; however, they were holding a different "watch." While whites were watching for the coming of the Lord, blacks were watching for the coming of their freedom.

The announcement that Abraham Lincoln would sign the Emancipation Proclamation was Sept. 22, but the effective date was not until Jan. 1, 1863. On the evening of Dec. 31, they assembled around 7 p.m., gave thanks, and prayed at midnight -- watching for the moment when they would be free.

Although times have changed, there are several reasons both races and cultures still need watch night services. First, we need these services to continue our preparation for the Lord's return. Scripture tells us we know neither the day nor the hour when he will appear. Therefore, we still need a time of self-reflection to ensure that we are ready for that day.

We also need these services in order to maintain designated times for thanksgiving, and the year's end is a great time to do it. During this time, we express our gratitude for the many ways God has helped us throughout the year, and we thank him for what's to come in the new year.

Finally, we need watch night services because there are still areas of our lives where we need to be freed. Yes, there are more civil rights battles to be won for blacks, but the need for freedom is not limited to race or culture.

Every person on the planet needs to be freed from something. That's a human condition, not a racial one. Therefore, watch night can be a time to proclaim emancipation from any kind of bondage that ensnares us.

If you were not at watch night on New Year's Eve, it's not too late. Set aside some time for self-evaluation, thanksgiving and focusing on the freedom that is needed in some area of your life. It's the best way to get set for a prosperous year.


Special to The Macon Telegraph

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