West Chelmsford United Methodist Church
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
This year both Christmas and New Year’s fall on a Sunday. When these important dates fall on a Sunday it creates a unique challenge and opportunity as we plan worship during the holidays. (For one thing, we will have only one worship service (at 9:30 a.m.) on each of those Sundays.) As we discussed this in our worship planning meetings we decided to do something for our New Year’s worship service that we did five years ago – the last time New Year’s fell on a Sunday. I want to give you some background and an invitation to come to worship on that morning.
Dating back to the time of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism, there has been a tradition among Methodists of a service of covenant renewal (sometimes called a Watch Night Service) on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The idea was to begin the new year with a new commitment to live a faithful Christian life during that year. In this church we have preserved a reminder of that tradition on one of the first Sundays in January when we read together #607 in our Hymnal, “A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition”. It begins with the words, “I am no longer my own, but thine” and ends with the words “And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.” Much of the language of that prayer comes from the covenant renewal service
For our New Year’s Day worship we will have a Covenant Renewal Service based on this old tradition as a part of our service. It will call us to consider seriously our calling to reject sin and embrace the new life that God offers us in Jesus Christ. Much of the language comes from the 18th century, but the meaning is clear and timeless. Most of the service consists of an invitation from the pastor and then prayers and a covenant we will read together.
John Wesley advised us ‘to make this covenant not only in your heart, but in word; not only in word, but in writing. Therefore, with all reverence, lay the service before the Lord as your act and deed. And when you have done this, sign it. Then keep it as a reminder of the holy agreement between God and you that you may remember it during doubts and temptations.” With that in mind we will have copies of the covenant for all who want to sign them and keep them for future reference and reflection.
We will enter into this service with open hearts and love with the hope that those who choose to participate will find it meaningful. I hope you will join us on New Year’s Day.
In the meantime, I invite and encourage everyone to participate in the many activities and worship services of the upcoming Advent and Christmas seasons.