For Auld Lang Syne

You’ll probably sing it tonight or hear it sung. Perhaps you wondered what you were singing.

“Auld lang syne” is from a old Scottish folk song and literally means, “old long since” or “a long time ago.”

The song, written by Scottish poet, Robert Burns, begins by asking whether one should forget about old times and then answers the question by suggesting a toast to the things of the past.

The song is fitting for New Year’s Eve. New Years Eve is a time for looking back and looking forward, looking back at the past year and celebrating its successes and friendships and looking forward to the new year with hope.

In Roman mythology Janus was the god of beginnings and endings. It is from his name we get the month of January. He is most often portrayed as having two faces, each facing in the opposite direction, and is often used to symbolize transitions from the past to the future.

The ancient Romans celebrated New Years Day on January 1, making Janus an approrpriate figure for that day, if of course you are a pagan. Whether it be a Scottish folk song or a Roman pagan fake-god, both remind that New Years Eve is a time of remembering the past, while looking to the future.

Jesus addressed the subject of transitions. He had been teaching on the kingdom of God and then spoke privately with His disciples saying, “Therefore, every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52).

Jesus was saying if a scribe could hold onto the important things he had learned from the Old Testament, while still grasping the new truths of the kingdom of God, he would be like a patriarch who holds onto valuable antiques and family heirlooms while still appreciating and collecting valuable new things as well.

King Solomon, a very wise man, said it this way, “It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.” (Ecclesiastes 7:18).

So, when you are singing Auld Lang Syne tonight, grasp the good things from 2011, while you reach into 2012 for the good things that lie ahead. GS