According to the Wikipedia, “A watchnight service is a late-night Christian church service. In many different Christian traditions, a watchnight service is held late on New Year's Eve, and ends after midnight. This provides the opportunity for Christians to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving …” As far as we know its origin could be traced to the Moravians. John Wesley then introduced it to England in 1740 when he conducted a watch night service which was called, “Covenant Renewal Services” at that time. Today a Methodist watchnight service provides a godly alternative to the revelry and drunken parties of Christmas and New Year’s Eve Countdown celebration!
I would like to propose three reasons why we should continue the watchnight service tradition and why every member should attend it.
Firstly, the Watchnight service provides us with an opportunity for reflection - not just a superficial thinking over things, but a deep and serious soul-searching before God. As it is, most of us hardly do reflection during the ‘busywork’ of life. We get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, go to work or school, see people, fill out forms, type email, text SMS, make phone calls, review files, answer emails, eat lunch, keep appointments, go home, unwind, eat dinner, walk the dog or go for a walk, talk to the children, watch TV, and go to bed. Then we get up the next morning and do it all over again. Where do we find time to do serious reflection of our lives? Sometimes, it might take something drastic like hospitalization for a surgery, or being made redundant in our jobs before we really take stock of our livestyles. God in His providence has given us this wonderful opportunity to reflect on our lives at the yearly Watchnight service.
Secondly, the Watchnight service provides us with an opportunity to repent of our shortcomings. After deep reflection, we might be reminded of failures and sins which we would be so prone to ignore. We’ve failed to put things right with our spouses, colleagues, friends, family and church members. We would rather have let things be. Why stir up the hornets’ nest or rock the boat? Just keep the peace and hope that everything will smooth over by itself? We’ve made the mistake when we adopt this attitude. Things do not just go away! We must take the step ourselves to straighten out the crooked places.
Finally, the Watchnight service provides us with the opportunity to make a ‘closure’ for 2015 so that we can make a fresh start for 2016. We all need ‘closure’ from our past. If we keep harping on past failures, we may become morose, depressed and outdated. Nobody wants to hear a broken ‘record’ playing the same old music. We may get nostalgic for a while but we certainly will be nauseated! Get real! Have a focus in life. Keep that goal before you and go for it. Why not come to the Watchnight service this Friday, 31st December and take time to reflect, repent and renew your goals for 2016!
Rev. Mark Tay