Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


(The following article is a compilation of research from several sources,and includes heavily the exact words and paraphrases from articles written by Charyn D. Sutton.)

The Watch Night has an ancient lineage. The roots run deep in the traditional nights of prayer in the early church and the watching and praying associated with our Lord’s passion in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Around 1742, in Kingswood, England, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, instituted Watch Night as a specific act of worship within the United Societies. These early Methodist Watch Nights were held either quarterly or monthly at the new moon. The first services were introduced as an alternative to what Wesley called the "wild carousals of the Kingswood miners" on Saturday nights.

In 1755, Wesley published "An Order of Worship for Such as Would Enter into or Renew Their Covenant with God--For Use in a Watch Night Service, on the First Sunday of the Year, or Other Occasion."

In the 1800’s Watch Nights fell out of favor among most predominantly white congregation; but the tradition persisted in the African-American church. There are two essential reasons for the continued and revived importance of Watch Night services in African American congregations.

Before 1862 African people on the plantations of the American South regularly gathered on New Year's Eve. The week of Christmas was the only “holiday” slaves were given. During this time slaveowners tallied up their business accounts for the year so that they could settle debts at the beginning of the new year. Human property was sold along with land and furnishings to satisfy debts. Black families and friends were separated. Often they never saw each other again in this earthly world. For many of our ancestors, enslaved and free, New Year’s Eve was the last time they would be together.

Also, Watch Night Services in Black communities can be traced back to gatherings on December 31, 1862, also known as "Freedom's Eve." On that night, Americans of African descent came together in churches, gathering places, and private homes throughout the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had become law.

Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863, and according to Lincoln's promise, all slaves in the Confederate States were legally free. There were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God, praising him in the Year of Jubilee. As Jesus promised in Luke 4: 18, 19 [proclaiming] liberty to the captives … [setting] at liberty those who are oppressed; [proclaiming] the acceptable year of the LORD.”

This year we look forward to our own historic January. As our ancestors awaited the Proclamation of January 1863, we look to the inauguration in January 2009. As they, so we gather to pray and to praise the Lord for how He has brought us over into the promised Year of Jubilee.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Hark! the herald angels sing

Christ, by highest heaven adored;

Christ, the everlasting Lord;

late in time behold him come,

offspring of a virgin's womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

hail th' incarnate Deity,

pleased as man with man to dwell,J

esus, our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

"Glory to the new born King!"

In the old days, before the king and his entourage marched into town, one of the king’s servants--- a herald---would ride ahead of the king, trumpeting and crying out, “Make way for the king! Make way for the king!”

When the king prepared to go to the throne and sit in judgment receiving the reports and petitions of his subjects, this herald would enter the throne room ahead of the king and cry out, “Announcing his royal majesty....” listing all of the kings royal titles.

The herald’s job was to make sure the people knew that the king was coming so that they could clear the path of any obstructions, clean up themselves and their businesses, and stop doing anything that they didn’t want the king to catch them doing. The herald did not change the identity of the king or alter the time the king would arrive, but the herald spoke to the people so that they could prepare for the king’s imminent approach. So you could define a herald as a “Preparer of the way.”

During the ministry of John the Baptist some people thought that he might be the messiah they were looking for, but John explained who he was.

John 1: 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

…23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias

John’s job was to go ahead of the coming King Jesus and proclaim, “The King is coming! Make ready for the King!” John the Baptist was a preparer of the way, herald of the Messiah.

So are we.

In John 1: 23 and its prophetic authorization in Isaiah 40: 3 notice that the command to prepare the way is not just to the voice in the wilderness (John) but from the voice to others. Who then is commanded to be prepares of the way?

Isaiah 40 : 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

The command is to Zion and to Jerusalem, to the people of Israel who are the spiritual predecessors of the church. Who does John cry out to? To us---Christians. The church is to prepare the way of the Lord. We are the heralds of Jesus today.

Now, remember that John’s ministry of heralding the Messiah, of preparing the way for Jesus, happened 30 years after the virgin birth in Bethlehem.

Thirty years after the herald angels proclaimed the birth of Christ to the shepherds(Luke 2). Thirty years after the wise men followed a star that heralded the birth of the King of the Jews (Matthew 2). Hundreds of years after the prophet Isaiah proclaimed:

Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

John the Baptist cried out for the people to “Prepare the way of the Lord,” centuries after Moses proclaimed to the people:

De 18:15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

We might think that with all of these heralds who had come before, there would be nothing for John to do. What else was there to say?

The child had already been born. Here He was.

What need was there for another herald, especially in light of the more illustrious ones (wise men, angels, Isaiah, Moses) who had come before?

John’s ministry and the questions it evokes are relevant to each of us and all of us because we Christians are John the Baptists today. (Even if you worship as John the Methodist, or John the Church of Christ, or John the Lutheran, or John the COGIC, or John the whatever-whatever

What else is there to say about the coming of Jesus?

Acts 1: 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

John did not herald the birth of Jesus, but he prepared the way for Jesus coming into the glory of His public ministry.

We do not have to prepare the way for Jesus’ first Coming into the world, but we are to prepare the way for His Second Coming. Because He will come again.

Considering the illustrious heralds of the past, why should you or I try to fill this role?

Matt 11: 7 ¶ And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.

John was not impressive by human standards. He had no priestly robes (though he was the son of a priest). He had no great financial resources (like the wise men). He subsisted off grasshoppers and honey (Mark 1: 6). Yet, he recognized and obeyed his calling to be a herald; just as the poor, outcast, poorly educated shepherds did when they heard the herald angels.

Luke 2: 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Each of us, whether wise in the world or uneducated, whether out of a pagan tradition or out of the traditional religious structure, whether rich or poor, whether an ordained minister in priestly robes or a regular “pew-sitter,” each of us has the divine charge of being a herald of the coming Lord. Each of us is responsible to God for preparing the way for His return.

How do we do that? How do we fulfill our charge to be prepares of the way, heralds of the King?

Mark 16: 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

We go ahead of the King and proclaim the good news that He is coming.

Matt 24: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

The gospel will be taken to the world. The questions is whether or not we will be obedient to our charge to be part of taking the gospel to the world. Not one of us can shift that responsibility to someone else. True, if you don’t get out on the missions field and proclaim the gospel, God will send someone else.

But do you want God to have to replace you? Do you want God to take your place and give it to another (Acts 1: 16-20)?

The command is clear. Go!

Go to the nations.

Go where the gospel has not been heard.

Go into ALL the world, not just the neighborhoods around our churches.

Get up, Zion. Get up, Jerusalem.

Go and prepare the way of the Lord!