Watch Night – A Brief History

“Watch Night 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 raged 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 Phone App.

The Emancipation Proclamation is something that all Americans, of all ethnic backgrounds and races, can celebrate and venerate. It pronounced the coming age of justice, equality, and wrath. Reparations were about to be paid generations of theft and dishonoring the Imago Dei; God was about to judge the United State of America. Night Watch has a long and storied history that dates back prior to the civil war and is more meaningful than Juneteenth. It portends the unity in diversity that was the civil war in America where so many people, of all races, paid in blood the sins of slavery.

Writing about the first Watch Night, Booker T. Washington said, “As the great day grew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more rings, and lasted later into the night. True, they had sung those same verses before, but they had been careful to explain that the ‘freedom’ in these songs referred to the next world, and had no connection with life in this world. Now they gradually threw off the mask, and were not afraid to let it be known that the ‘freedom’ in their songs meant freedom of the body in this world.” – Common Prayer Phone App.

Take time this year with your Church Communities and celebrate Watch Night together, as a family, knowing that God is sovereign over all things, even slavery and the emancipation thereof:

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 1:11–14.

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