I Never Would Have Made It
In the name the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I love our Afro-Anglican tradition, however there is one thing that is missing; one thing that I would like to see incorporated in our liturgical calendar is Watch Night on December 31st of each year. Within the African American tradition, Watch Night services evolved around the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, when black people gathered on December 31, 1862 to wait for the new day and the freedom that was promised for January 1, 1863.
Many cultures begin their new year with great celebrations, feasting and partying. This is also true with many within African American communities. However, Watch Night Service is a special way to move across the line of time that marks the end of one year and the coming of a new year. This night finds many Christians in church on their knees in gratitude for the completion of another leg in the journey and recommitting to a sacred partnership with the Almighty for whatever is to come in the new cycle before us. For African American Christians, crossing of this line of time is a time to remember the night their ancestors watched and waited for the arrival of January 1, 1863 and the application of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. This observance is significant as a part of the fabric binding multiple and extended efforts to undermine and destroy the legal system of slavery within the
One of the realities of the last night of the year is that we face it with the baggage of the previous year. Many New Years are simply a repeat of our old years, because we carry both distant history and recent memory of pain and struggles. In the midst of our trials and tribulations, we have too often hung our harps of faith on weeping willows of self-pity and defeat and allowed daily survival issues to dim our vision as we peer into the future through a glass darkly. As we have waged war against the devil, who in various nefarious and sometimes unexpected ways has come against our families, our aspirations, and us, we often approach the New Year with dimmed hope rather than the conviction that real turn around can happen in our lives. But before we begin to consider the year ahead, why don’t we take some time and ferment on the fact that we made it!
Have you ever considered how you made through last year? Today, we are happy to celebrate another year, but at second glance, last year was an extremely difficult year that touched our lives in many ways. We saw a near meltdown of the financial markets, including the collapse of some of the nation's largest financial institutions. We saw billion dollar companies coming to the government asking for welfare. Even auto dealers and big newspapers were asking for help. We saw gas prices rise to astronomical heights and watched the news daily to hear reports of more plants closing; even some close to home. Seniors saw pensions decline and many seniors had to return to work or keep working to survive. For the first time in a long time, many whites discovered that they were not part of the middle-class after all and may never be. Long standing, well-paying union jobs disappeared in staggering numbers and we know they will never return. This was a wake-up call to many who, with little education, had always done okay. Elementary and high school educational systems continued to decline in
Despite all of that God saw fit to help us get through. African Americans saw an occurrence that many never believed they would see in their lifetime —the inauguration of one who was African and African American as the president of the
As I stood with my family in Grant Park that night I along with many cried. We cried remembering black folk brought to the
There is very little we can do in any given year that does not require God’s miraculous intervention for us to survive. Without God's help, we would not have made it through. Even those of us who were touched by some of the problems, still made it. God kept his word to us. He said that he will never forsake us or leave us.
The fact is that the grace of God surrounded and strengthened us last year. God’s grace placed someone by our side in times of trouble and helped us. The grace of God caused a full plate to be placed on our table when we hungered and it was the grace of God that placed us in the hands of the right doctor, teacher, coach and mentor. It wasn't luck, it was the grace of God. As Christians, we approach the New Year with renewed hope and enthusiasm. We are enthusiastic because when we look back we saw how God helped us. We know that since God helped us last year, God will do the same again in the months to come.
This morning, as I deviate uncharacteristically from the lectionary readings, there is a word from God for us found in the 17th verse of Psalm 94. The KJV reads “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.” But I like the way that the message translation puts it- “If God hadn't been there for me, I never would have made it.”
The 94th Psalm is a unique Psalm which focuses on
Yet, God provided for them. When they were to the point of thirsting to death, God provided water for them from a rock. When they had no food, God provided bread from heaven that appeared on the ground every day for 40 years. When they had no meat, huge flocks of quail appeared every day. Their clothes did not wear out; they never had to change shoes.
The 94th psalm describes a period in
In the wilderness,
The psalmist later raises the question "Who stood up for me against the wicked? Who took my side against evil workers?" The answer came in verse 17 "If God had not been there for me, I never would have made it." Through their faith in him,
You survived because God has something better in store for you. There is a Promised Land awaiting you; it has been promised. Looking back we are happy because we know that we did not have the strength to protect ourselves from the enemy but God is able. In our time of trouble he was our help.
He provided for us. In the wilderness
Finally beloved, we must consider that we made it last year only by the grace of God and it will be grace that will see us through the year ahead. The grace of God looks down on us in our mess and continues to bless. The grace of God showers opportunities upon us even though we do not deserve them. God is not foolish; God is not naive. There is a reason for why God continues to bless sinful people like us. God’s grace has a divine purpose. We made it through the trouble and trials of last year because there is a divine plan at work.
Those who really know the Lord have arisen from last year's struggles, stronger, wiser and better. We should have learned to trust God more and "lean not to our own understanding." We should have learned to pray before we act and to seek God's will. We should have learned that in our weakest hour that God can make us strong. We made it last year but it was not luck, it was the hand of God gently nudging us in right direction. Now, facing a new year we are stronger, wiser and better.
Now, having overcome the slippery slopes we came upon last year we are better prepared to serve God to the fullest in the year to come. Now, facing a new year we should be encouraged to know that the same God who saw us through last year is still on the throne! We made it, because God heard our prayers in the midnight hour! We made it, because God raised up our bowed down heads! We made it, because God lifted us up when we fell down! We made it, because God gave us: STRENGTH when our burdens became heavy; ASSURANCE when everything seemed to go wrong; INSPIRATION when difficulties arose; COMFORT when disaster struck. We made it because God’s grace gave us the strength to: Keep on going, when our road gets rough; Keep on singing, even though our pain becomes intense; Keep on working, even when our bodies get weary. We made it because God smiled on us.
I don't know what the future holds, but I know that my God holds the future! Whatever new challenges or new foes or new problems arise in the coming year, we can still face it with the assurance of victory, because our God does new things in new places to help the people of faith face new challenges, attain new victories and form new testimonies. The witness of the prophet Jeremiah still holds true, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” That’s why I know that Our God is able to meet every crisis with new creativity. Our God is able to meet every problem with new provision. Our God is able to meet every mountain with new miracles. God is able to meet attacks with new anointing. God is able to meet new trouble with new triumphs.
I never would have made it without God!