When I was a teenager living in California, our church would have a Watch Night Service beginning about 8 pm on December 31st. All ages of people, from little kids to the elderly, would show up for this event. We'd have a potluck of desserts, play games, and visit. If I remember right, those with really young children would leave by ten, but the rest of us would stay the course. Around 11:30 we'd gather in the sanctuary for a time of worship. We'd keep one eye on the back of the room, where the big clock hung on the wall. The clock that was supposed to guide the pastor's sermons on Sunday mornings. Our voices would join together in singing the old hymns like "I Surrender All" or "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go." On the tick of midnight we'd take turns praying out loud, committing our lives to the Lord's service in the new year.
As a Christian teen, I loved that special night. I always felt a sense of excitement about the coming year, and yearned to grow closer to God as I went through it. I wanted my life to count for something and to be a witness to others. I was willing for God to mold me however He best saw fit.
And you know what? He answered all those prayers. I stayed close to the Lord and went on to become a pastor's wife as well as a missionary. I continue to yearn to grow closer to God with each passing year. I carry with me an awareness that I'm a witness as I'm out and about in my community. Pastor Brown is in glory now, but I hope he knows how much I looked forward to ending the old year with my church family.
Do churches even have Watch Night Services anymore? I haven't been involved in one for decades. But I just talked to my husband, who is on a piano tuning trip to Nevada, and he was going to a Watch Night Service in a little Baptist church in Hawthorne. So obviously some places are keeping the tradition alive. It might be a good thing to reinstate here in Oregon. Who knows? There might be a young person (or old) who could really benefit from that yearly recommittment to their faith.