WATCH NIGHT SERVICE: A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
The beginning of a year brings joy to everyone, making it possible for all to greet and welcome the New Year. Probably, that is the only event celebrated globally, across all the boundaries of religions, castes, creeds, races, education status and nationalities-all welcome the New Year in high spirits. Churches hold watch night services on the New Year eve.
'Years' are God's creation. God, on the fourth day of the creation week, created sun, moon and stars in the firmament of the heaven to distinguish seasons, days and years. "He crownest the year with goodness" (Gen.1:14-15;Psa. 65:11). Moreover, His eyes are upon His people to bless them "from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year" (Deut.11:12). Seasons, unerringly occurring in a cyclic manner, constitute a year. A cluster of months (and weeks) is a season. In short, a season consists of days, weeks and months. Autumn, winter, spring and summer are the seasons.
It is interesting to note that there are seven references to the New Year in the Bible. Studies of these passages and their spiritual significance are enriching. It tells us the importance God has given to such times of beginnings.
1. Celebration Of New Blessings
It was Noah's family who celebrated the beginning of a year for the first time. They were the only family left behind after the flood on the face of the earth to celebrate the New Year. "In the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked and behold, the face of the ground was dry" (Gen.8:13). Noah celebrated New Year by removing the cover of the ark. No rain, no more fear-everything was new and fresh. Noah and family would have praised God for giving them a 'new world' free from sin. Dearly beloved, this is the promise of God to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom.6:4-6;1Pet.3:20-21). At the beginning of each year, it is the privilege and a great matter of encouragement for the believers to be reminded of the newness in every aspect of our spiritual life in which we ought to walk.
2. Ordering Our Life
For a record of the next start of a New Year, we should come to Moses. It took many months for Moses to build the tabernacle. He did everything according to the pattern, as he was instructed by the Lord God. The Bible says, "Moses did as God commanded. Now on the first day of the first month Moses started setting up the things of tabernacle in order. Moses set up everything according to the Lord's commandments and the glory of God filled the tabernacle" (Exo. 40:16-17,34). The start of the year was the day when the tabernacle was filled with the glory of God. That came when Moses ordered all things according to the commandment that was given to him. When we spiritually order our life, no doubt His glory will fill our life. We know that our body is the temple of God and we should radiate the glory of God through our life. When there is disorder, glory departs. In the household of Eli, the priest, glory departed. Even the oppressors of the Gospel saw the glory of God on the face of Stephen, who was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts.6:15). This should become our experience, individually and collectively.
3. Sanctify The Temple Of God
The third occurrence of such a time was in Hezekiah's time. On the first day of the first month, Hezekiah the King of Judah opened the doors of the temple and removed all unclean things even from the inner-most part of the temple. "And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron. ... they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of the LORD: so they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days" (2Chro. 29:16-17).
This incident instructs us that we ought to cleanse ourselves from all evil in the fear of God (2 Cor.7:1). The Scriptures further tell us, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (2Cor.3:16-17). Again, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; who is in you" (1Cor.6:19). The beginning of the year should be a time to examine ourselves and cleanse our whole body-soul, spirit and body-the temple of God (2 Chro. 29:16-17).
4. Get Back To The Bible
Now we move to Ezra's time. "For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgements" (Ezra 7:9-10).
On the first day of the first month, Ezra, the ready scribe of Scriptures, arose to go to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. There are many things that remain as stumbling blocks for us in reading and meditating the Scriptures-our jobs, friends, entertainments, etc. Let us come out of all these areas of 'captivity' and make a firm and solemn decision to spend time in reading the Scriptures.
5. Repentance And Resolutions
About the reformations that happened in the same time, Ezra's time, Scripture says, "And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month" (Ezra 10:17). When people read the Scriptures, they realised how far they had deviated from God's word. They repented of their sins and turned to God. There they made resolutions not to marry strange wives. Those who repented were honoured by God in having their names recorded in His book (Ezra 10).
6. Fresh Message From God
Now move to Ezekiel's time. "And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me" (Ezek. 2917). Ezekiel had received God's word about Egypt. But on the first day of the month, God gave him a special message; the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel on that day in a unique manner. Such should be the beginning of a New Year for all-a time to receive fresh messages from God.
7. Remembering Our Redeemer
While giving the instructions about the millennial temple, the Lord told Ezekiel, "Thus saith the Lord GOD; 'In the first month, in the first day of the month, thou shalt take a young bullock without blemish, and cleanse the sanctuary'" (Ezek. 45:17-18). It is good to remember our Lord Jesus Christ on the first day of the first month. During the millennial kingdom, people will remember His sacrifice on the cross by offering sacrifices. This sacrifice is not for atonement, but they do it as a memorial feast. So, let us remember and praise Him who died for us on the first day of the first month.
While beginning of the year is a time to celebrate the goodness of God, it is also a time to be reminded of our duties.