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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Watchnight: A celebration of faith and freedom

By Niki Turner

I like to start the New Year off on the right foot... not exhausted from staying up all night, not nursing a headache and an upset stomach from overindulging in food or drink, nor languishing the first day of the New Year away on the couch watching TV.

Attending — or implementing — a "watchnight" service is one way to sweep out the cobwebs from the previous year, and prepare one's soul and spirit for the days ahead.

John Wesley
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, began the custom of holding watchnight services in 1740. The church service, held on New Year's Eve and sometimes Christmas Eve, provided a spiritual activity for Methodist Christians on evenings traditionally devoted to partying and carousing. Attendees spent the service singing, praying, and hearing scripture as part of what Wesley referred to as "covenant revival" or "covenant renewal," in which the faithful rededicated their lives and purpose to their Lord.

EmancipationProclamation In the United States, during the turbulent years of the Civil War, slaves gathered on New Year's Eve—aka Freedom's Eve—in 1862 to celebrate the moment, at midnight, when Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation officially became law. The joyous celebration of freedom on New Year's Eve has continued for more than a century in many African-American church congregations. 

Watchnight, or Freedom's Eve, is the perfect occasion to set aside some time to thank God for the freedom we have in Christ, to repent (turn around and go a new direction), to forgive those who have wronged us in the past year, and to renew our commitment to seek God's guidance and direction and blessing in every area of our lives.

May your New Year's Eve celebration tonight involve a few minutes with your Heavenly Father, remembering the great and unconditional love He has for you and the good plans He has for you in the year to come!

Happy New Year to you all!


10 comments:

  1. I like this a lot. I've never been much of a New Years Eve-er myself. but I like the idea of Watchnight (though honestly, i'd probably fall asleep in Wesley's party) and Freedom Eve. That was completely new to me.

    Happy New Year Niki! It's going to be a great one!
    Hey, did you get your new grandbaby yet?

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    1. Yeah, I rarely make it to midnight. I hate being all exhausted and groggy on New Year's Day.
      I ran across the Freedom Night service tradition doing some research about Austin. Very cool.
      And no, no g-baby yet! He's taking his time. :)
      Happy New Year to you as well!

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    2. Yeah, I rarely make it to midnight. I hate being all exhausted and groggy on New Year's Day.
      I ran across the Freedom Night service tradition doing some research about Austin. Very cool.
      And no, no g-baby yet! He's taking his time. :)
      Happy New Year to you as well!

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  2. My parents' church has a watchnight service. It's a lovely discipline, to set aside time at the end of the year to reflect and pray. Gets the new year off to a great start!

    No grandbaby yet???? Guess he's waiting for 2014.

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    1. We used to do them when we were pastoring, although at the time we didn't know what they were called or the history behind them! It was just a nice way to push "reset" at the end of the year.
      We've got indications that baby #3 might be making an appearance... it would be fun to have the first baby of the new year!

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  3. Renewal and re-commitment are wonderful New Year's occupations.

    That and hockey. ;)

    Happy New Year everyone!

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    1. OK, DeAnna, you surprised me with that! Somehow I didn't picture you as a hockey fan!

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    2. Oh, yeah. Big time. Just ask Anita.

      And my team won last night, so their NYE record remains sterling. :D

      You never know about people, right? Heh heh.

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  4. Niki, I really like this. Freedom's Eve" is perfect on so many levels. Thank you for this.

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    1. You are most welcome! May 2014 be a year of freedom for all of us on a multitude of levels!

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