Why the Church Should Celebrate Juneteenth

Every year, as a journalist, I work the holidays most people have off.

Even during my radio days, on Christmas, Memorial Day, New Year’s Day or Thanksgiving, someone would say to me as they ran out the door, “Happy holidays! Enjoy the long weekend!”

And while it’s not likely it occurs to them, a long weekend for others has always meant very little for me.

On whatever holiday is in question, my alarm will still go off at 3am. I will still drag myself out of bed, yawn halfway through my shift, and look forward to my lunch break.

I’m not necessarily sad about it. After all, this does mean I’m employed. But it also means I’ll be scrolling through photos of celebratory home-cooked meals until my workday ends while my friends in other career fields are sleeping in, on a boat with wine coolers or unwrapping gifts with family.

I don’t bother to say all of this to whomever is racing to their car at the end of the day. I simply offer back an equally cheerful, “Happy holidays! You too!” … and I always mean it.

But between you and I, there’s a special joy I feel on days I do have off. I relax a little more that night knowing that when the morning comes, I too will participate in hitting the snooze button, lounging around with my dog or stopping by a barbecue.

For centuries, Black and Brown people in the United States have attested to the reality that there are two existing Americas: one for whites and a more restrictive, oppressive system for our country’s Black citizens. That means every Fourth of July, when the nation celebrates its day of independence, your Black American friends with ancestors once bound by chains might not as thrilled as you are.

To put it plainly, it can be a conflicting day for us.

For us, history has made it clear that America’s commitment to her patriotism and blind allegiance to the red, white and blue, have made her downright hateful toward skin colors of a darker hue.

And as Black men and women, each year, that familiar push and pull of wanting to belong in the home you created, accepting that you may never be, and finally resolving that you no longer want to is quite an emotional dance.

Still, we go to the cookout anyway.

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So while the acknowledgement of Juneteenth as a National Holiday is a just small step forward, it is, nevertheless, a step.

June 19, 1865,  the emancipation of enslaved Africans, African Americans and Black people in the United States of America, was quite literally a day of Jubilee. And no one should have a bigger appreciation for deliverance from bondage than the Body of Christ.

Black, white or other….  Why wouldn’t you want to celebrate?

Romans 12:15 tells us that we, as Believers, are to not just mourn with those who mourn but also to rejoice with those who rejoice. So if last year, you found yourself weeping over the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, but this year find yourself taking an “us vs. them” position regarding the newest federal holiday, I’d urge you to reconsider. Anyone who claims to love the Jesus of the Bible should be able to identify with the feeling of freedom and the joy of acceptance.

Especially since celebrating is exactly what Heaven did when your own chains were broken.

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