Unfortunately for American pastors, Christmas falling on a Sunday means that New Year's Day also falls on a Sunday as well. For those that ring in the new year at midnight, this makes it a little difficult to rise and shine for church the next morning.
Within the Methodist tradition, John Wesley would often encourage his churches to hold Watch Night Services on New Year's Eve which would sometimes last three hours or more. These were a type of covenant service that allowed for the participants to renew their faith before God and one another in the coming year. These would also be held on New Year's Day.
Within Methodism, we understand that sometimes people fall away from the faith. They quit attending as regularly and may discover other pursuits on Sunday mornings. This was commonly referred to as backsliding in the 19th century and is a term still used today but not as frequently. It involves our ability to turn from God and move along our own path. Those Christians of Calvinist persuasion would say that there is a perseverance of the saints that prevents those of real faith to backslide. It means that backsliders never had real faith in the first place.
Of course, this means that outsiders are interpreting your faith for you. How do they know if your faith if real or not? I do know that backsliding comes to me in all kinds of ways. I've had plenty of times in my life when I didn't exercise as faithfully as I might. Did these lazier times diminish the work that I put in when I was more determined? Within an understanding of free will, we recognize that change comes to human beings all the time. Renewing our covenant is about recognizing that I do need God's help to become a more regularly faithful person.
This Sunday, we will celebrate a Wesleyan Covenant Service at 8:30 and 11:00 am in the Sanctuary and at 10:50 am in Wesley Hall at First United Methodist Church of Edmond. It won't be our most crowded service due to the intersection of the holiday but it will undoubtedly be very meaningful for those who come (and it will be an hour, not three!). I will be preaching on Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 and my sermon title (with a nod to Chicago) will be "Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?" Many blessings to you as we close out another year. May we renew our faith and may it give us strength for the coming year.