Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for New Year’s Eve.
Season & Preparations
The New Year’s Eve decorations remain the same as they were for the First Sunday after Christmas earlier in the day. The Christmas season continues until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, so feel free to keep all of those decorations out and in use (tree, wreath, nativity set, etc.). White remains the color of choice.
Readings & Theme
The culture today celebrates New Year’s Eve in a far different way from the Church. People all around the world ring in the new year with champagne and celebration, resolutions and parties. The general feeling of the new year is one of a fresh start, a clean slate, a hopeful turn toward something better in the new year.
The readings in the lectionary reflect a theme more reminiscent of the end of the Church Year, which anticipates the return of Christ and Judgment Day. The opening words of the day’s Gospel, from Luke 12, are Jesus’ own words: “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” Preparation is favored over celebration. The day’s Epistle, from Romans 8, reflects the struggles and suffering of those who follow Christ. Yet nothing in the world can separate us from God’s love, not even death.
The Old Testament Reading, from Isaiah 30, is a challenging text. This line in verse 15 is quite beautiful: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” However, Israel is unwilling to follow God’s words, and this beautiful line is wasted on them.
The feeling of the readings is not one of a fresh start, but more of an encouragement to keep persevering in the midst of struggle and uncertainty.
Some congregations may choose to meet on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day rather than on both days. If that is the case and your congregation has chosen New Year’s Eve, you may wish to use the readings for the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, which are customary for New Year’s Day.
Hymns & Music
The Hymn of the Day is “Across the Sky the Shades of Night” (LSB 899), which is tailored especially for New Year’s Eve. You are welcome to choose Christmas hymns, but I would suggest using hymns in the Evening section of Lutheran Service Book, which covers hymns 877–891. Your congregation may have few opportunities to sing hymns from this section, and there are some real gems, including “Abide with Me” (LSB 878), “Now Rest beneath Night’s Shadow” (LSB 880), “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” (LSB 883, which works really well sung in a round), and one of my personal favorite hymns, “Christ, Mighty Savior” (LSB 881), which is one of the rare hymns in LSB that does not rhyme but is strikingly beautiful.
You may also consider the End Times section of the hymnal (hymns 508–516), especially “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers” (LSB 515) and “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying” (LSB 516) as they reflect the day’s Gospel.
Another option to consider is “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (LSB 733), which begins, “O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come.”
Additional Resources for Worship & Study
The new year also marks a great time to encourage people at your church to pick up a new devotional book or to incorporate daily devotions into their routine for the first time. Here are a few great daily devotional options for the new year:
- Day by Day: 365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther
- A Year in the New Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year
- Portals of Prayer for Kids: Daily Devotions
Looking for additional information on planning for New Year’s Eve? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.