Monday, December 31, 2018

Rituals and Prayers

Social media sites are awash with New Year greetings, assessments of the past year, hopes for the next year, and confessions of past failures. It seems we must all mark the new year's arrival and the old year's passage in some way.

In my youth, we had a Watch Night service at church. It was a small congregation of maybe...fifty members. We had a pot-luck dinner around seven PM down in the basement. Then there were board games and various contests and socializing. At 11:30, we went up to the church and had a quiet service. There were hymns, a short devotional, and then silent prayers for our country and our families and friends. At midnight, we sang one last song (usually Amazing Grace) and went home.

It has been many, many years since I have attended a Watch Night service. I'm not sure churches even have them anymore. But even all these years later, I remember the solemnity of the final evening service compare to the frantic, desperate frivolity of the Time Square celebrations. I can not imagine taking part in that insanity.

I don't judge those who do take part, but I wonder what the point is. The service I attended as a teen was centered around personal evaluation of past and future. It was one last chance to make private judgement about our life and what goals we might set for the next year. And then in the last final moments of that old year, as a group, we looked forward to the new year. We brought our hopes and prayers for all those around us in a prayer for the future.

I know a large number of folks no longer believe--in anything. Some say they are Christian or Jewish or Pagan or whatever. But those beliefs are...shallow, I think. They're lip-service instead of true service. Make no mistake. I don't believe going to church proves anything. I do believe that observance of ritual and prayer puts us in the frame of mind to worship, whoever and whatever, we serve. And it strikes me that the loss of ritual and prayers is something we can ill afford to let go.

Perhaps this evening we would be better served to gather our family in the dark shelter of our home, light a candle, voice our hopes for the future, and say a silent prayer for those in our circle.

Blessings for your New Year!