Monday, December 31, 2018

Good Ole Song for a Good (or Not So Good) Old Year

Do you know who old Lang is? You know, the person whose sign they always sing about on New Year’s Eve? Old Lang’s sign?

All right, it’s actually Auld Lang Syne, but what’s that mean, anyway? In case you were wondering – and we’re told inquiring minds want to know – I looked it up. It comes from the title and key phrase of a 1788 Scots poem by Robert Burns. Traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve in many parts of the world, “auld lang syne” literally translates to “old long since.” Basically, “days gone by.” 

I remember years ago hearing bandleader Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians orchestra playing this bittersweet reverie leading up to the moment when past and future intersect, as “Father Time” passes the torch for the coming year:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ auld lang syne.

If nothing else, the song gives people a reason for toasting with their favorite beverages in remembrance of days gone by and looking forward to days yet born. I don’t think the tune is sung or performed at any other time of year. Christmas carols are heard for weeks (okay, months) before they’re instantly turned off on Dec. 26, but “Auld Lang Syne” gets only a one-night stand.

It seems fitting to pause and reflect on old acquaintances and key events of the past year before charging into the new one. Many of us have good friends and loved ones who left this life during 2018. They are missed. We’ve got happy times and achievements to remember with joy; and there are the moments (or extended periods) during the year for which we now can say, “Good riddance!”

From a spiritual perspective, it’s good to remember what the Lord has done over the past year. In one of his psalms, King David was going through a time of intense opposition and needed a reminder of God’s faithfulness. “So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land…. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Psalm 143:4-8).

Perhaps that sounds like you as we prepare to close out one calendar year and turn the page to the next. It does help to recall great things God has done in the past, for us and others, trusting He remains faithful and will do similar things in the coming days. 

At the same time, we’re admonished not to get stuck in the past and let it darken our expectations for the future. In Isaiah 43:18-19, the prophet wrote what God had spoken to him: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

In some ways the beginning of a new year doesn’t necessarily mean a totally fresh start. Projects unfinished over the past 12 months will need to be continued even as we flip calendars. For most of us, the job we had on Dec. 31 will be the same one we report to on Jan. 2; strained relationships at the close of the old year will still require attention – and hopefully, healing – in the new.

Nevertheless, the onset of a new year still gives us reason for renewed hope. We can start afresh, trying again with strengthened resolve and determination. Best of all, we have the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17 that applies to our everyday lives: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

So the next time someone asks, “What’s new?” we can answer, “Me!”

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