Saturday, December 31st, 2016
Watch Night is a Christian church service held on Christmas Eve usually starting late and ending as the New Year starts at midnight. John Wesley started it in 1740. He was a kind of “start-up” kind of guy. For one, he was the founder of the Methodist church and did all kinds of innovative things creating groups for social action and writing hymns and arguing against tough Calvinism. He was a mover and a shaker of the 18th century and much loved in England. New Year’s Eve was just as crazy and drunken then as now and he wanted a safe, reflective place for church members to come and reflect and recommit instead of (or before) revelry! It is formalized in The Methodist Book of Worship.
It took on a more heightened meaning in the United States for African-Americans.
Slaves gathered in church on New Year’s Eve, in 1862, for the moment when the bells rang midnight that confirmed the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, on January 1,1863.
So there’s the history lesson.
I’ve been to several Watch Night services. They tend to be informal with people speaking from their hearts and sharing gratitude. There is something nice about gathering in a group to do this. It doesn’t feel normal churchy but rather a gently thoughtful way to start a New Year. Many of us do this in our conversation with family and friends. Maybe we should focus less on weight loss and more on wisdom gain