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Watch Night/New Year's Eve Resources

"Watch Night" is New Year's Eve or a religious service held to observe the coming of the New Year. Your congregation may have held a Watch Night Service last year as part of welcoming in the New Year, or your congregation may have a long tradition of Watch Night observances as the clock approaches the final hour of the year. Korean congregations have a particularly strong Watch Night tradition and the new bilingual Korean hymnal has resources from that tradition. There are also some fresh resources online that can invigorate your planning.

In addition to the "Covenant Renewal Service," no. 288 in The United Methodist Book of Worship, you will find the following resources helpful:

Watch Night "Owlah" Service
The concept and design of this Watch Night Owlah [o-law/burnt offering] liturgy was developed and celebrated in 1998 by an ecumenical faith team in Birchwood, Wisconsin. Leila M. Geist, a lay member of Birchwood United Methodist Church and a member of the Discipleship Ministries Vision 2000 Team, helped coordinate the planning and liturgy design.

Watch Night Vespers
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.

Watch Night Vigil
The Vigil is an extended service that 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.

Other resources:

Of historical interest:

Charles Spurgeon gave a justification for holding a preaching service at midnight on December 31, 1855:
If it be enquired why I held a Watch-night, let the answer be — because I hoped that the Lord would own the service, and thus souls might be saved. I have preached at all hours the gospel of Jesus, and I see no reason why I may not preach at midnight, if I can obtain hearers.

You will find here the text, sermon, and hymn used at this service. Remember: it was 1855! Preach your own sermon for this New Year's Eve!

This resource listing was prepared by Daniel Benedict , who retired from the Center for Worship Resourcing of Discipleship Ministries in August 2005.