My tradition is to bring the New Year in by attending church services. My church starts service at 10:00 pm and right after the New Year rings in, we eat breakfast as a community and share good wishes with one another. I love this ritual and I look forward to it. I feel anchored in this community that loves me and is a solid foundation of love and belonging in my life.
In Nigeria, midnight service is the norm for most practicing Christians also. For years, I did not know the history of this midnight service. It has a unique history
From Common Prayer: A liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, Shane Claiborne et. al. tell us:
“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.”
“Writing about the first Watch Night, Booker T. Washington said, ‘As the great day grew nearer, there was more singing into the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, 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.’”
What I love about this is the celebration of freedom. We have so much freedom we do not even recognize that we have so much of it. It takes courage to widen our choices and not be slaves to our default settings. We make choices as if we are locked into only certain options. But we have many, many, options that we can explore. Courage, my friend, courage. That is what it takes to embrace true freedom.
For me courageously expanding my freedom looks like this: This year, I will courageously discover freedom in my body, my business and my community.
- I will choose to be intentional about making friends with my body and seeing her as an ally rather than working against me. I will enjoy the freedom of listening to her deeply, enjoying movement and nourishing her lovingly.
- I want to be intentional about growing my new coaching business by delivering high quality services and creative workshops. I choose to make experiments and discover my growing edge in coaching. I will embrace opportunities to generate sustainable income.
- I will choose to grow my community by volunteering in Clarkston, Georgia and working with the refugee community. Also, by growing my business community online as well as in Atlanta locally.
That is how I will be courageously exercising my freedom in 2017. What freedom are you going to exercise in 2017?