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Auld Lang Syne

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).

We have all sung or heard those familiar strains of “Auld Lang Syne” as we ring in the new year. Of course, we have songs aplenty during the Christmas season, but on New Year’s Eve there is only one (unless you are a native New Yorker and like to join the old crooner Frank Sinatra in a rousing version of “New York”).

Most of us join in singing this song without actually knowing what “Auld Lang Syne” means. Many historians call this the “song that nobody knows.” And yet there is a resonance in the song to which we seem to vibrate. We bid adieu to the previous year, even as we look forward to a new, and hopefully, better year. And I think that was what Robert Burns was trying to convey when he penned this poem in 1788. Literally, “auld lang syne” means “old long since,” which isn’t all that helpful. But more generally it means “days gone by.”

And so billions around the world desire to “take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne. These are then accompanied by wishes and prayers for health and happiness in the new year. But what we find is a vicious cycle, each new year bringing calamity and chaos in its wake. And so we will do it all again next year, and the next year, etc.

All this means that we need to change our perspective on the future. We need to stop pining for fulfillment and satisfaction in the events of the year, and start longing for and loving more the God of the years, “the potentate of time,” as we sing from time to time.

The reality of 2022 is that it will be filled with plenty of joys, sometimes mixed with a pinch of sorrow and sadness, or with a deluge that threatens to sweep us away. There is a certainty to life here under the sun. That same author who wrote about “the potentate of time” reminds us that “time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away…”

We also need to stop trying to make a “better me,” whatever that is. If the food is spoiled, no amount of spice and seasoning will make it palatable. It has to be transformed, made new. And here is the genuine hope of the believer in Christ Jesus: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). We enter a new year not knowing what the future holds, but resting in the certainty of a God, revealed to us in the Lord Jesus, who promises that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:28-29). Isn’t this what we celebrate in Emmanuel, God with us?

You see, the “good” here is not an easy life, but a transformed life, a life that more and more reflects the Lord Jesus Christ. No resolution can do that! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

For every day that we live on this earth, there will always be a better day awaiting. So we need not be afraid when bad news comes (and it will). We can trust and rest in the Lord, for he will surely finish what he started.