New Year’s Eve/Watch Night


    new year

    Notes for Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

    Some are wary of preaching from Ecclesiastes because the preacher in the text is thought to be an unreliable source of inspiration. The book begins with his "what's the use" observation: "vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Eccl. 1:2). But then, there is this passage in chapter 3 . . . When life seems senseless and meaningless, this discouraged preacher reminds us that everything has a place -- both the good things and the bad things in life.

    • Visit for a wealth of additional online resources for this text. These are offered free of charge.

    • Visit Chris Haslam's weekly exegetical commentary (Anglican Church of Canada) on both Testaments.

    • Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos -- Spanish-language Revised Common Lectionary resources from Instituto Universitario ISEDET in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (It may be necessary to search the archives for resources for this week's readings.)

    Back to top.

    Notes for Revelation 21:1-6a

    Revelation 21 begins the last of John's seven visions of the end times. For information about the other six visions, see the notes in the New Interpreter's Study Bible, pages 2236-2239.

    Notice the progression of the coming restoration:

    • New heaven and earth (verse 1) -- This is an echo of Isaiah 65:17-19 and Isaiah 66:22.

    • New Jerusalem -- not rebuilt on earth, but coming down from heaven (verse 2).

    • The home of God is among mortals -- compare verse 3 to John 1:14 where the words used for home of God are translated lived among us. Compare the notion of God living among us to similar descriptions in Matthew 1:23 or John 14:23.

    • The absence of death and pain and tears (verse 4) -- They will not be found in God's restored creation. The same description can be found in Isaiah 25:8 of this week's lection or in Revelation 7:17.

    • Finally, the restoration of everything! All things will be new (verse 5).

    • Verse six reminds us that God, who is Alpha and Omega, transcends history.

    Back to top.

    Notes for Matthew 25:31-46

    This text was also used for Christ the King Sunday, Year A.

    • Although goats were used for both meat and milk in everyday life; symbolically, they represented things undesirable. The king in Matthew 25 is separating people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (verse 32). The sheep were placed at the king's right hand; the goats at his left. (It bears mentioning that in a number of Middle Eastern cultures, the left side or left hand continues to be a place of dishonor.)

    • The familiar conclusion to the scene is that those who responded with compassion to the needs of others received an eternal reward while those who did not received eternal punishment. The church has been in great controversy over the years about the criteria for receiving eternal punishment. Since we believe that salvation is by the grace of God and not by the works of human hands (Ephesians 2:8-9), we find it easy to reason that we are not condemned to eternal punishment solely on the basis of works. On the other hand, the harsh treatment of the goats in the passage forces us to seriously consider the importance of works of justice and mercy.

    • Visit for Richard Donovan's weekly exegesis of the New Testament lections in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

    • Visit for a wealth of additional online resources for this text. These are offered free of charge.

    • The Painted Prayerbook -- Offering a unique combination of her original artwork and writing, Jan Richardson's blog includes reflections on the lectionary readings.

    • Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos -- Spanish-language Revised Common Lectionary resources from Instituto Universitario ISEDET in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (It may be necessary to search the articles for resources for December.)

    Back to top.

    Sermon Notes

    Hope for Better Days: Ecclesiastes 3 and Revelation 21.
    In some faith communities, New Year's Eve/Day signals a time for renewal and recommitment. The symbolism of the Ecclesiastes reading is powerful in light of mind-boggling events of the past year. Only with God's help and grace are we able to accept what has happened to us in the past year and still look forward to the bright future described in Revelation 21. Although weeping and laughing, war and peace, poverty and wealth, and life and death are all part of life as we presently know it, God's love for us is constant. Even if the year that comes should prove to be as difficult to navigate as this past year, God will be with us.

    New Year's Day is a time to let the text do the talking. Have the texts read well and let your comments be few. Make space for liturgy, such as Wesley's "Covenant Renewal Service" (pages 288-295, United Methodist Book of Worship), or suggest symbolic ways to leave the old year behind as you anticipate the year that waits to unfold before you.

    Beyond Self-interest.
    While Ecclesiastes and Revelation speak of comfort and better days, the gospel reading calls us to look beyond self-interest. Life may indeed be filled with disappointments, but we can do something to make the world a better place. The criterion for the separation of the sheep from the goats was a simple yardstick for righteousness, also found in Micah 6:8, which says: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Both the sheep and the goats were judged by their responses to the needy and marginalized among them.

    In Jesus' day, the least of these (verse 45) were easy to find: they were those who hungered, who needed clothing, who were imprisoned (some falsely), and those who were outside the borders of their own family and kin. We used to think of the marginalized in our communities as a hidden or an inaccessible population -- such as the homeless or the jobless who live under bridges. The economic recession has taught us that they are not so hidden (and inaccessible) after all. In the midst of current economic realities, it will not be difficult to locate people in need. Joblessness, homelessness, food insecurity, and economic deprivation are all around us.

    Although we do not believe in salvation through works of righteousness, the Matthew passage does suggest that God is very concerned about our responses to the myriad needs around us. In what ways can we, as individuals and as churches, respond more faithfully in the coming year to the cries of the indigent, to the ever-increasing numbers of strangers and prisoners, and to those who are chronically ill in the coming New Year?

    Back to top.

    Online Resources

    Center for Excellence in Preaching Commentary

    Sermon Helps from (Matthew)

    Janus Is Here -- Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts (UMC)

    Should There Be a Clock in the Sanctuary? -- Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Joanna Adams (PCUSA)

    "Our Spiritual Bottom Line" -- Sermon by Bishop Kenneth Carter (UMC)

    "Understanding the Book of Revelation" from PBS Frontline: Apocalypse

    "The New Creation" -- Sermon by John Wesley

    "On Visiting the Sick" -- Sermon by John Wesley

    "The Reward of the Righteous" -- Sermon by John Wesley

    Back to top.


    BOW- The United Methodist Book of Worship
    CLUW- Come, Let Us Worship (Korean)
    MVPC- Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Spanish)
    SOZ- Songs of Zion
    TFWS- The Faith We Sing
    UMH- The United Methodist Hymnal
    URW- Upper Room Worshipbook
    WSM - Worship & Song, Music Edition
    WSW - Worship & Song, Worship Resources Edition

    Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
    All Things Bright and Beautiful 147 63
    Beams of Heaven as I Go 524 10
    By Gracious Powers So Wonderfully Sheltered 517
    For One Great Peace 2185
    For the Fruits of This Creation 97 193
    Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go 438
    From the Rising of the Sun 2024
    God of the Ages 698 377
    Great Is Thy Faithfulness 140 30 81
    Hymn of Promise (In the Bulb There Is a Flower) 707 338 392
    I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry 2051
    In His Time 2203
    O God, Our Help in Ages Past
    117 200
    Psalm 8 (UMH 743)
    Across the Lands 3032
    All Creatures of Our God and King
    62 22
    Amen, We Praise Your Name, O God (Amen Siakudumisa) 2067 398
    Awesome God 2040
    Children of the Heavenly Father 141 335
    Creator God, how great is your name! 69
    Creator God, How Great Is Your Name! (Psalm 8) 230
    Creator of the Earth and Skies 450
    For the Beauty of the Earth 92 8
    For the Fruits of This Creation 97 193
    From the Rising of the Sun 2024
    Glory to God in the Highest 2276
    God Created Heaven and Earth 151
    God of all creation, we come with grateful 64
    God of Wonders 3034
    God, Our God, Your Glorious Name (Psalm 8) 229
    God, whose fingers sculpt sun 42
    God, Whose Love Is Reigning o'er Us 100 73 74
    Great Is the Lord 2022
    Hallelujah 3027
    How Great Thou Art 77 2 61
    How great you are 3015
    How Majestic Is Your Name 2023
    I Sing the Almighty Power of God 152 65
    Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee 89 5 75 65
    Many and Great, O God, Are Thy Things 148 50 71 232
    O God Beyond All Praising 2009
    O God in Heaven, Grant to Thy Children 119 227
    O God, Our Help in Ages Past
    117 200
    O great and holy God, we sing hymns 109
    O Lord, Our Lord (Psalm 8) 231
    O Lord, Our Lord (Psalm 8)
    Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven 66 75
    Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire 492
    Revelation 21:1-6a
    All Who Hunger 2126
    Arise, Shine Out, Your Light Has Come 725
    Awesome God 2040
    Beams of Heaven as I Go 524 10
    Blessed Quietness 2142 206
    Christ the Victorious, Give to Your Servants 653 380
    Come to the Water 3114
    Come, let us dream 3157
    Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above 709 387
    Come, We That Love the Lord (Marching to Zion) 733 3 139
    Come, Ye Disconsolate, Where'er Ye Languish 510
    For All the Saints 2283
    For the Healing of the Nations 428
    From the Rising of the Sun 2024
    Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken 731 256
    Here, O My Lord, I See Thee 623
    I Want to Be Ready 722 151
    I'll Fly Away 2282 183
    Joy Comes with the Dawn 2210
    Joy in the Morning 2284
    Living Spirit, holy fire 3109
    Love Divine, All Loves Excelling 384 100
    My Faith Looks Up to Thee 452 215
    O Come and Dwell in Me 388
    O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines 729
    O Freedom 2194
    O God, Our Help in Ages Past
    117 200
    O Holy City, Seen of John 726 390
    O What Their Joy and Their Glory Must Be 727
    Open Our Eyes 2086
    Sing with All the Saints in Glory 702 382
    Soon and Very Soon 706 385 198
    Spirit Song 347 190 91
    There's a Spirit in the Air 192
    There's Something About That Name 171 74
    There's Within My Heart a Melody 380 289
    There's a war going on just across the street 3114
    This Is a Day of New Beginnings 383 208 311
    This Is the Feast of Victory 638
    We Shall Overcome 533 140 127
    We Will Glorify the King of Kings 2087
    When All Is Ended 133
    You Who Are Thirsty 2132
    Matthew 25:31-46
    All Who Hunger 2126
    All Who Love and Serve Your City 433
    As We Gather at Your Table 2268
    As you have been fed at this table 169
    Carol of the Epiphany 2094
    Christ Is the World's Light 188
    Come, Share the Lord 2269
    Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast (Communion) 616
    Come, Ye Disconsolate, Where'er Ye Languish 510
    Come, Ye Thankful People, Come 694 241
    Crown Him with Many Crowns 327 157
    For One Great Peace 2185
    For the Healing of the Nations 428
    Forward Through the Ages 555
    Gather Us In 2236 54
    Go! Never stop going out from church 167
    God Weeps 2048
    Great God of waves and flames 12
    Here Am I 2178
    Here in this sanctuary we remember 158
    How Can We Name a Love 111
    I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord 617 120
    In Remembrance of Me 2254
    Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love 432 288 179 116
    Jesus' Hands Were Kind Hands 273 176
    Lord God, let me give until it helps the poor 98
    Lord of the morning I awake to this new day 217
    Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service 581 204
    May the Christ who walks on wounded feet 27
    Now It Is Evening 2187
    O God of the Crucified Christ 199
    O God, Our Help in Ages Past
    117 200
    People Need the Lord 2244
    Rescue the Perishing 591
    Shout to the Lord 2074
    Sisters and brothers, let us claim the freedom 20
    Sisters and brothers, whom will you seek 159
    Star-Child 2095
    Sunday's Palms Are Wednesday's Ashes 2138
    There's a Spirit in the Air 192
    Together We Serve

    Categories: Worship, Lectionary Planning Archive, Year C