Watch Night Devotional

Posted By Communications on Dec 29, 2020 | 0 comments

Centering and Introduction

The first watch night service was on December 31, 1862, as African Americans, both slave and free, gathered in churches and homes across our nation, and waited and watched for the new year, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. Watch Night—Freedom Night. Every year since, New Year’s Eve is a time for the black community to remember a time when they were enslaved and a time when freedom dawned. African Americans continue to watch for a time when true equity is realized for them and all people of color. May we all watch and work for such that day of true Beloved Community.

This New Year’s Eve 2020, we are looking back on a year unlike anything we could have expected: the novel corona virus-COVID-19-which continues to rage across the world; political turmoil and unrest, and an upcoming transition of power; the raging of the pandemic of racism, taking life after life after life; wildfires that continue to burn; hurricanes that devastated lives and continue to cause suffering and hardship; and the effects all of this has had on our lives—socially, emotionally, economically, and so much more—both individually and collectively.

It is my hope and prayer that this simple devotional offers you a moment of prayer and contemplation as we prepare our hearts, minds, bodies and souls for a new year, 2021. You are invited to have five candles to light and, if desired, some paper or notebook/journal and a pen as you spend time with this Watch Night Devotional. We have also placed the two anthems sung by our St. Paul’s Sanctuary Choir virtually online—“I Believe Even When” and “The Prayer of St. Francis.” It is recommended, if possible, to play the “I Believe Even When” video here at the beginning, and “The Prayer of St. Francis” video at the end of the time of devotion. May God’s unconditional love surround us as we enter into a new year.

Centering in Song

“I Believe Even When” by Mark Miller, performed by the St. Paul’s Chancel Choir

Let There Be Light

Reading from Scripture: Genesis 1

When God began to create the heavens and the earth— the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters— God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared. God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. God named the light Day and the darkness Night.
There was evening and there was morning: the first day.

The Lighting of Candles (or Advent Wreath)

In this season of Christmas, as we continue to welcome the Christ Child in our midst, the Light of the World, the Light that shines in the darkness, let us light candles in our home (or Advent Wreath) using the litany from our Sundays of Advent.

We wait for justice
but we do not wait to work for change;
This is the light of hope. (Light candle 1)

We wait for restored health
but we do not wait to work to heal;
This is the light of love. (Light candle 2)

We wait for wholeness
but we do not wait to work at binding brokenness;
This is the light of joy. (Light candle 3)

We wait for peace
but we do not wait to work to eliminate hatred.
This is the light of peace. (Light candle 4)

Beloved Community, light has dawned and shines on all people, filling the night left by sadness with messages of hope, love, joy and peace. This last candle is the light of Christ, the Prince of Peace, our Light and our Life.(Light the Christ Candle)

Raise your voices and repeat after me…
Do not be afraid! (Do not be afraid)
Do not be afraid! (Do not be afraid)

Praying and Remembering through Psalm 22

Though we are in the midst of celebrating Christ as the Child of the Manger, ever with us is the crucified and resurrected Savior. From the cross, Jesus cried out the first verse of Psalm 22—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Rarely do we follow this psalm beyond that first line, and yet, it is a powerful prayer that names suffering and pain and hardship, and then moves beyond it into the joy of praise, to the wonder of God. Let us use this powerful prayer to acknowledge the struggles of 2020 and look with hope to God’s future. You are invited into times of silent prayer throughout the devotional. It might also be helpful to journal your prayers/thoughts in these moments.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
    and by night, but find no rest.

We hold in silence those who cry out in pain this night,
those in need of rest.
(Time of Silent Prayer/Journaling)

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

Let us give thanks for the ways God has been present with us this year.
Let us give thanks for front line and essential workers,
for small acts of kindness,
for grace that walked with us this year.
(Time of Silent Prayer/Journaling)

But I am a worm, and not human;
    scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
    they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Let us hold in silence those who have felt scorn from others;
those who are despised by the powerful;
those who are oppressed and persecuted.
(Time of Silent Prayer/Journaling)

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

Spend a moment giving thanks for the image of God that you are.
Let us pray for all people to know they are precious,
beloved, cherished children of God.
Let us pray that God’s presence is manifest for all in trouble this night.
(Time of Silent Prayer/Journaling)

12 Many bulls encircle me,
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

Let us hold in silence all who feel alone this night,
all who grieve, all who feel the dust of death.
(Time of Silent Prayer/Journaling)

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
    O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my life from the power of the dog!
21Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
Let us hold in our hearts all of our joys,
all the concerns and burdens that weigh heavy upon us.
Let us offer to God in the silence, all that we are.
(Time of Silent Prayer/Journaling)

And now, let the praise of this psalm be our prayer for
the coming New Year!

22 I will tell of your name to my [family in faith];
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise [God]!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify [God];
    stand in awe of [the Lord], all you offspring of Israel!
24 For [God] did not despise or abhor
    the affliction of the afflicted;
[God] did not hide [God’s] face from me,
    but heard when I cried to [God].

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear [God].
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek [God] shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before [God].
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and [God] rules over the nations.

29 To [the Lord], indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before [God] shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for [the Lord].
30 Posterity will serve [God];
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim [God’s] deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that [God] has done it.

‘Saying that God has done it!’ Amen!

Prayer for the New Year

“Prayer of St. Francis”    

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Prayer in Song

“The Prayer of St. Francis” performed by the St. Paul’s Chancel Choir

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