Why Attend the Watchnight Thanksgiving Worship Service?
This year, December 31st falls on Sunday. This means that for many of us who are reading this, you have come for the morning Worship Service. So, you may wonder, why then should I come again for the Watchnight Service? After all, I have already worshipped God today – what’s the difference between that and the Watchnight Service?
Why have a Watchnight Service? Watchnight service is said to have begun back in the 1700s as a service to have Christians renew their covenant with God with the New Year around the corner. As individuals and as a church, we enter into a covenant with our LORD to serve Him and to obey Him. We covenanted with Him that the LORD would be our God, and that we would walk in His ways and be His holy and peculiar people (Deut 26:16-19). This is a serious covenant that we must live up to every day of our lives. The Watchnight Service is intended to be with 1) Thanksgiving and 2) Reflection of the year past, as well as a 3) Looking forward to the year ahead.
1) Thanksgiving. As we look upon the past year, we reflect on God’s goodness to us. We look back with thanksgiving, remembering His protection and care over us. Some may have walked through deep valleys and shadows over the past year. It may be illnesses, farewells, difficulties, trials, losses, or what seemed like bad news in some way or other. God has covenanted with us to be our God. We reflect on His faithfulness in fulfilling His covenant. And when we see His Providential Hand working in our lives and answering our prayers, we praise Him with grateful hearts. 2) Reflection. Next, we must also reflect on our part of the covenant. In 2017, have we lived up to what God expects of us? While many of us begin our Christian walk and possibly every year with enthusiasm, the sad fact is that many of us often don’t live up to our promises to God and aspirations to live for Him. But you may be thinking that “I don’t have to be such a committed Christian. After all, I am saved, on my way to heaven, and that’s all that’s important”. The fact is, whether or not we consciously realised or not, God called us – His people and His church – out of the world to be His peculiar people when He saved us. It was not just to deliver us from hell and to send us to heaven when we die. When we were saved, we entered into a covenant with Him. When we called upon Him as our Lord and our God, we accepted the fact that we would be His people. So, every truly born again believer is in a covenant with God and is accountable to that covenant. That is why each of us must reflect continually on whether we have lived in the world in a way that is “not of the world” (John 17:14). Have you been assimilated into the world? Are you still “peculiar”, being set apart to our Holy Lord? Is the Lord or are you the master of your own life? 3) Looking Forward. Finally, this is not a time merely to just “count” in what areas that we have failed Him, but to repent of our failings with godly sorrow and desire to change and correct ourselves in a concrete way. Here is where we look forward to 2018 with eyes raised and hearts desiring to once again pursue after our God with fresh love, zeal and vigour. We cannot just leave it as “I’ve failed, so too bad”, but we must set our hearts, minds and habits to strive to change and not allow ourselves to go back to our old habits and our old sins. A reflection without a desire to change our way of living is not repentance. It means that we stop giving ourselves excuses for how we live our lives, continuing in our sin or our state of backsliding. We do not just say “I lack discipline” but we make concerted efforts to instil that discipline in our lives. Some may be thinking “what’s the use of making New Year resolutions when we will break it anyway?” Well, simply because that is what we must strive to do in response to what God has done for us. If we call God our Lord, then we must live in a manner that shows that He is truly our Lord and Master – in obedience. But as we look forward, we realise that it is not going to be by sheer willpower and determination. We must learn to seek God for strength to live for Him in 2018. That is why we end off the evening with a time of prayer, to seek God’s help, strength and grace as we seek to live another year for His glory.
Why must I go for Watchnight Service? Perhaps I could answer this question with another… why would you not go for Watchnight Service? Does not God’s goodness and mercy to you over the last year move you to come to praise and give thanks to Him? And to spend the last night of the year with Him and His people? And maybe a larger question is – what will you be doing if you are not at Watchnight Service? Will you be spending it like the world in merrymaking and carnal joviality? Every year we also stay back after the worship to pray for the church and each other. It is so important for each of us to seek to enter into 2018 in watchful prayer as a family of God and as individuals. Let us watch and pray lest we fall in the way ahead. It is a good way to end the year and to start yet another – with the Lord and His people in worship and prayer.
So, this year and every year, we encourage all worshippers to come for the Watchnight Service. This is a time set together to reflect, and look back on the year past and to pray for strength to strive to live the year ahead with renewed zeal for our Lord. If you have not attended a Watchnight Service before, begin this year and resolve to come every year.
Yours in our Lord’s service