New Year’s Eve; growing up, this was the one day when Church meetings were full to overflowing. The services started at about 9pm, and were intended to last till just after midnight when we had been ushered into the New Year. Occasional church-goers would make it a point to not miss this one ceremony. It was the end of the year, and even if they missed all the other meetings in the outgoing year, the New Year would meet them in God’s presence!
Watch night services; that’s how they used to be called. Today, that name seems to be out of vogue. “Night of Supernatural Transition”, “Supernatural Crossover”, “Passover”, “Night of Seasonal Transition”, you name them.
Well-to-do congregations who can afford radio and television advertisements try to outdo each other in their broadcasts of what lies in store for attendees. Billboards and flyers carrying various captivating headings litter the city. You can’t afford to miss this opportunity of a lifetime, we’re told.
Traditionally, New Year’s Eve services were held to thank God for His protection throughout the year, and to commit ourselves to Him for the New Year. Today, the service are made out to be auspicious moments where miracles, sudden breakthroughs and instant turnarounds will occur for those who attend. In a yearly cycle, attendees are promised a New Year where everyday will be sunny-and-bright-with-no-clouds-or-rain; with a string of prophecies, mostly for material blessings each day of the year.
The question this article seeks to address is, are 31st December watch night services really auspicious moments in Christianity or are they a hoax?
On my part, I have grown weary of the commercialisation of church meetings in the manner these so called “prophetic nights” are.
For one, I have a huge difficulty believing in the concept of auspicious moments in Christianity. I cannot find any support for special nights or days of any kind in the Bible where one’s status could change in an instant if they “tapped into it”. In fact, the New Testament frowns upon the concept of religious attachments to certain days above others (Col. 2:14-16; Gal. 4: 9-10). A worship service on the 31st of December is no different from one held on any other day of the year. What makes Christian services special is the fact that two or more believers have gathered and Jesus is in their midst (Matt. 18:20). There is no mystery to New Year’s Eve whatsoever. It is not as if we will miss a spectacular blessing that God was meant to give away just on the night before New Year if the Church did not meet to keep a vigil.
Secondly, “prophetic declarations” of a rosy, trouble-free-life in reality promise something the Bible never promised. Apart from the fact that these so called prophecies are recycled each year, true Biblical Christianity of necessity calls us to take up our cross daily and follow where the Master has trod. That means following wherever He may lead. And the Master’s path was not an all-rosy one. He never said it will be always sunny and bright–the New Testament is alien to this false assertion.
If you are a genuine Christian, well then there will come times when you will be ridiculed for your faith and the faith you profess is bound to be tested through trying times to prove if it’s real. Like Joseph, or Daniel and his three friends, we may face persecutions simply because we refuse to compromise on our integrity.
The good news is, God promised to use all things: the good, bad, ups and downs, hardships, persecutions, trials and temptations–and all others for our good (Rom. 8:28). So instead of expecting a rosy year, believers need to be taught to strengthen the loins of our minds for faithful Christian living each year and pray to let the Gospel shine brightly through our lives come what may!
Lastly, the Bible teaches that our Christian walk is a process; never an overnight, all-of-a-sudden quick fix. Our sanctification is a process that begins the moment we believe and continues through till the day we see God face to face. Our daily, moment-by-moment intentional acts of discipline and obedience are what count towards our growth in godliness (2Tim4:7, Acts 2:42, 46-47). Promises of a sudden change of one’s status are nothing but false prophecies.
I read an entry in John Wesley’s journal which I thought provides a beautiful picture of what our end of year meetings could be like. Regarding a meeting of Methodist Ministers held on New Year’s Day, Monday January 1, 1739, we read this:
“Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles were present at our love feast in Fetterslane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we recovered a little from the awe and amazement at the presence of His majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.'”
Meetings around this time of the year present awesome avenues for thanksgiving and praying into the New Year. They are also wonderful soul-winning opportunities, seeing as so many occasional church attendees show up at this time. Multiplying to ourselves teachers who only promise an instant supernatural fix to all our shortcomings in the outgoing year, however, is exactly what Paul warned us about when he said,
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.(2Tim.4:3, NIV).