Our congregation, Amazing Grace, has a longtime tradition of worshipping together on New Year's Eve. Since coming here, I've used the service as a chance to pray Compline. Instead of Prayer at the Close of the Day, we think of it as Prayer at the Close of the Year.
Compline is a quite, meditative service, originating from as early as the fourth century. It doesn't usually have a sermon or fancy processionals. Rather, the silence, the psalms, and the prayers are the main foci.
Tonight’s liturgy, prayers, and readings are full of images of day and night, of time changing, of the Earth moving.
From the opening dialog, "Almighty God, grant us a quiet night and peace at the last."
From Thomas Tallis' lovely hymn, "All praise to thee, my God, this night for all the blessings of the light...."
Every night, the earth will finish one more spin, one more revolution. The sun will set again, just has it has for years before humans can even remember. Tomorrow we will be awakened and welcomed to a new day.
The night of December 31’s spinning of the Earth is the same as all the others, but it is also different. We go from one year in our human markings of time to another. From 2010 to 2011.
We remember the year past: Haitian earthquakes. Health care. Lady Gaga.
Here at Amazing Grace: Construction projects. Trunk or Treat. VBS. Angel Food. Baptisms. Saints departed. New friends. New adventures. Epiphany. Lent. Easter. Pentecost. Advent. Christmas.
A lot has happened in a year. And a lot can happen in the next.
The Earth keeps spinning. Every day is a blessing from God, as is every year. God’s time is not always the same as our time. I love the words from Isaac Watts’ hymn:
A thousand ages in God’s sight
are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun (LBW # 320).
We do not know what will happen once the sun rises tomorrow. We do not know what 2011 will bring in our lives, in our neighborhood, in our congregation, in our country, in our world. Yet, we live with promises of God’s love, with hope for a God who does not forsake us, with peace as God’s parting gift for us.