Sunday Blessings: Watch Night / New Year’s Eve

For the 1st Sunday after Christmas and the Week Following

Many Christian traditions have Watch Night services. Communities gather to pray, reflect, and renew their covenant with God before the start of the new calendar year. For people of African descent who were brought to the Americas via slave ships, Watch Night is a particularly meaningful day.

Although the abolition of slavery across the British Empire came into effect August 1, 1834, in the United States, the long act of emancipations started with Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1862. I’ve been told that people gathered on December 31, 1861, to await President Lincoln’s signing of the document. Even though Watch Night originated in the United States, many Black communities gather on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of the long road to freedom that we must continue to travel until all are free. It is particularly fitting that Watch Night always happens in the middle of the Christmas season as a reminder of the liberating love that baby Jesus calls us to participate in.

Prepare

Where do you find the spirit of Christmas? Each newborn child is reliant on others to care, protect, and love them into their best selves. I wonder if little baby Jesus is any different. For me, Christmas is a powerful reminder that just as a child is reliant on their community, Jesus’ kin-dom, his dream for a better world, is reliant on all of his followers. I am needed to help care, protect, and love little baby Jesus, wherever I might meet him, and however colicky he might be, until heaven meets earth. We are all dependent on each other.

Play and Ponder

Select one of the following ideas to work with over the course of the week:

  • Watch for the Spirit of Christmas this week. Record each day places where you have experienced God’s hope, peace, joy, and love. Be creative! You can record with pen and paper, via social media, in a song, or in your evening prayers. Just make sure to share the good news of Christmas, God in our world, with others!
  • Learn about the history of slavery in Canada. It’s not that easy. Much of Canadian history about enslaved people of African descent focuses on the Underground Railroad, neglecting Canada’s history of enslavement. To start your search read “It happened here, too” on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights site   or watch the story of Mary Joseph Angélique (Note: may not be suitable for all ages).
  • Have you experience hope for a better world this Christmas? Where? Make a “songs of hope and freedom” playlist to listen to and share with friends. Some suggestions: “Better Days,” The Goo Goo Dolls; “Redemption Song,” Bob Marley and the Wailers; “Ella’s Song,” Sweet Honey in the Rock; “People Get Ready,” The Impressions.

Pray

Choose one of these prayers to pray daily this week.

Scriptural Prayer

Memorize this scripture:

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Breath Prayer

(breathe in) Christ Child (breathe out) I will help your kin-dom come

The Prayer of Jesus

Download the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili

Graces and Blessing

Sing the last verse of “Away in a Manger” each night before bed

Be with me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray
Bless all the dear children, in your tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with you there. (author unknown)

Christmas blessings,
Alydia

Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.