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Watch Night Vespers and Vigil

This service reflects the tradition of the church’s daily "Evening Prayer." A brief service that makes use of silence and symbol, it should be unhurried and quiet.


ENTRANCE OF THE LIGHT

A flame is carried in. If the congregation lights the Advent wreath candles during the twelve days of Christmas, they will be lit first, followed by the Christ candle. If the Advent wreath is not used, an evening candle or evening lamp is lit on a stand in a prominent place during the following:

Light and peace in Jesus Christ!
Thanks be to God!

(The musical setting in UMBOW #221 is recommended for use here.)


" ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8)
Alleluia!!


EVENING HYMN

A translation of the Hymn of Light (used by the ancient church to begin Vespers since at least the fourth century) is "O Gladsome Light" UMH #686. Alternatives are "Christ, Mighty Savior" UMH #684 or "All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night" UMH #682. See hymn on p. 83, "Watch Night Song."


THANKSGIVING FOR LIGHT

Blessed are you, Holy God!
When you said: "Let there be light"
there was light and it was good.
When your people fled from oppression,
You led them with a pillar of fire.
In Jesus Christ, your light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness cannot overcome it.
Blessed are you, God of light!
Shine in our lives with the light of Christ
that we might give you praise through him
who lives and reigns with you and Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.


EVENING PRAYER CANTICLE

A setting of Psalm 141 may be sung. The Vietnamese setting (UMH #498) can be effectively sung by a soloist with the choir, a small group of singers, or the congregation singing the phrases "Have mercy on us, Lord, and grant us your grace" and "This my offering to God, the Lord of all."


CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

As generations of our mothers and fathers have done, we come before the throne of grace in the assurance of God’s great mercy as we confess our sins.

Here use UMH #891 or other appropriate form of confession and pardon.

**The preceding section may also serve as the opening section (Service of Light) for the midnight Vigil Service (below).

PSALTER UMH
Psalm 90 p. 809

A time of silent meditation

SCRIPTURE

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8; 2 Peter 3:8-13

A time of silent meditation


CANTICLE OF MARY

For musical settings of this canticle from Luke 1:46b-55, see UMH #198 and #200. Many choral and solo settings are also available.


PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING AND INTERCESSION

Everlasting Lord,
we are grateful and hushed by the mystery of existence
as we stand on the threshold of a new millennium.
We marvel in your love and gracious purpose
woven into the fabric of our days.
With confidence born of your faithfulness
we offer our hopes and prayers:
for ourselves and all most dear to us . . . (pause)
for the world, its peoples and its leaders . . . (pause)
for the mission and faithfulness of the Church
here and everywhere . . . (pause).


Here the congregation may be invited to pray "A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition" (UMH #607).


Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings,
with your most gracious favor,
and further us with your continual help,
that in all our works,
begun, continued, and ended in you,
we may glorify your holy name,
and finally, by your mercy,
obtain everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who taught us to pray:

THE LORD’S PRAYER

U
MH #894, #895, or #896

HYMN UMH
"O God, Our Help in Ages Past" 117


ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE

Jude 24-25
Now to the One who is able to keep you from falling,
and to present you without blemish
before the presence of his glory with rejoicing,
to the only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
before all time and now and forevermore.


BLESSING

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

WATCH NIGHT VIGIL
For December 31

The Vigil is an extended service which may be used in several ways: (1) It may begin before and last until after midnight; (2) It may be used earlier on New Year’s Eve in place of the Vespers service provided above; (3) It may serve as the basis for an all-night vigil beginning with Vespers and concluding with the celebration of the Eucharist on New Year’s morning. Adaptations to reflect the local context are encouraged. The following outline is suggested:

1. SERVICE OF LIGHT

The opening part of the Vespers service provided above may be used down to the dark bold line before the Psalter.


2. SERVICE OF THE WORD


PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

Lord, open our hearts and minds
by the power of your Holy Spirit,
that, as the Scriptures are read
and we prepare to welcome the new year,
we may hear what you say to us,
and respond with thanksgiving
as your faithful people. Amen.


Genesis 17:1-5

Meditation in silence

Hymn: "Faith, While Trees Are Still in Blossom" UMH #508

Joshua 24:1-8, 14-15

Meditation in silence

Hymn: "Let My People Seek Their Freedom" UMH #586

Psalm 90 (UMH, p. 809)

Meditation in silence

Hymn: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" UMH #117

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8

Meditation in silence

Hymn: "What Gift Can We Bring" UMH #87

2 Peter 3:8-13

Meditation in silence

Hymn: "Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying" UMH #720 or "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" UMH #206

Matthew 25:1-13

Meditation in silence

Revelation 22:1-5

Canticle: "Canticle of the Holy Trinity" UMH #80 or
"Canticle of God’s Glory" UMH #82 or
"Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" UMH #89


3. SERVICE OF COVENANTING

The "Congregational Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant" (UMH #50) or the "Covenant Renewal Service" beginning with the PROCLAMATION on page 290, UMBOW, may be used.


4. CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST (THE LORD’S SUPPER OR HOLY COMMUNION)

We suggest that the service be timed so that the last minutes before midnight are spent in silent meditation.
At midnight, bells may be rung, festive banners raised, and the musical introduction to the Doxology played.
The first act of worship in the newyear is the singing of The Doxology, UMH #94.

The bread and wine are brought by representatives of the people to the Lord’s Table.


THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

The Great Thanksgiving for New Year and Covenant Reaffirmation is on page 58 of UMBOW. We encourage the use of one of the musical settings for the congregational responses (UMH, pp. 17ff).


PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

"Bread and Justice" UMH #639

HYMN UMH
"Sent Forth by God’s Blessing" 664


SENDING FORTH

Jude 24-25
Now to the One who is able to keep you from falling,
and to present you without blemish
before the presence of his glory with rejoicing,
to the only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
before all time and now and forevermore.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God!

Dwight W. Vogel-- at the time of this writing (2000) wasprofessor of theology and ministry and director of the Ebersole Program in Sacred Music at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois.

Categories: Worship, Worship Planning, Lectionary Calendar, Civil Observances, New Years, Other, Christmas