Auld Lang Syne Hath Been Forgot

Robert Burns was the poet laureate of Scotland in the 18th century, and he penned this folksy tune that, in the 20th century, became the theme song of New Year’s Eve thanks to Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

The only lyrics really known to everyone (much like the first stanza of the Star Spangled Banner) are thus:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And days o’ lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll take a cup o’kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

Ah, the haunting sad-yet-hopeful melody of remembering the past year’s good times, hoisting a wee bit o’ cheer to yer mates, and looking forward to a new calendar of exciting possibilities. Happy New Year.

In years long past, my wife (then girlfriend) and I started a rowdy tradition of hosting a NYE party at her parents’ farmhouse for our friends. For several years in a row, on that day we feasted on chicken wings, chips, and Killians while the obligatory vegetable tray lay full and barely touched. We’d play games, laugh ‘till our sides hurt, and sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight. Around 2 or 3 everyone would find a corner and a sleeping bag, then after a short nap stumble back to their cars and go home to face the cold uncertainty of a new year. “See you at school/work/around,” I’d say while the clinks of empty bottles and swishes of plastic garbage bags sounded the cleanup effort.

I have many fond memories of these parties, even if they all blur together in my mind. We kept it up as long as we could; even after we were married and lived in Missouri, we’d still come home and gather the troops for Old Long Since. Eventually, the party petered out due to the natural course of life changes and relational long distance. (I also became a pastor and suddenly had to work on NYE.) Still, whenever I get together with those old chums it’s like no time has past. Auld lang syne, my dears. 

Fast forward a decade-and-a-half, and it was all I could do to stay awake until midnight. In fact, this year I only stayed up because the kids were begging to and I knew if I didn’t stayed up with them they would never go to bed at all. My wife and youngest had retired around 10; my second youngest gave up at 11. With ten minutes left the three of us remaining turned on the TV to watch the ball drop.

I immediately muted it, shielding my aging children as reasonably as I could from the new world order that greedily awaits them outside my protective walls.

To say that Times Square and the “entertainment” thereof is worldly would be to say that water is wet. It’s not even the garish lights and celebrated debauchery that brought my internal scoffs—I’m used to seeing that, and it’s about as new as NYE itself. No, this year it was the bloated wokeness of today’s normalized irrationality that reminded me of the full-grown pity I have for my fellow man. The casting callers for the televised event clearly looked for the highest intersectionality score (especially in the sexual column), the signs and advertisements were almost all entities that peddle “social justice” more than base materialism, and the camera intentionally grouped people wearing two masks apiece (that were promptly stripped bare to share kisses at midnight … because “science”). The irony of some pop star singing her version of Imagine while Bill de Blasio pushed the giant ball-dropper-thing in the heart of capitalism was not lost on me, even if it went way over the heads of the revelers. I thought about lecturing my kids on the dangers of trusting princes, in mortal man who cannot save, that we’ve been lectured and lied to for years by hypocritical powers that only want to control us, that real peace and hope can only be found in Christ, that the world they’re watching on the screen offers nothing but pain and regret. I thought about pointing it all out while the evidence twerked on the screen before us, while the world searched in vain for self-righteousness, but … ah well … I’m too tired tonight. So let’s just countdown, sing Auld Lang Syne, share hugs and kisses, and go straight to bed. And so we did. Happy New Year.

Nevertheless, last week I felt my long-seeded memories of NYE were officially confirmed as auld lang syne forgot. In fact, there’s another verse of the original song that fits the occasion:

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn

Frae mornin’ sun till dine.

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin auld lang syne


We two have paddled in the stream

From morning till dinner

But seas between us broad have roared

Since old long acquaintance

Today’s American society is like that verse to me: we used to have enough in common to share memories, hopes, dreams, fears, and a common goal of peace and freedom. But the space between us is now a tempestuous ocean. O World, my old friend … you want me to join you again; I want to warn you of your destruction. You want the violent social equity depicted at the end of Fight Club; I want the humane dignity of equal opportunity for all people. You want to control me with policies and mandates; I want you to worry about yourself and leave me alone. You want me to deny my faith and believe a different gospel; I want you to deny yourself and follow Jesus alone. Seas between us braid hae roar’d sin auld lang syne. I realize I’m growing into a bitter old man now, but this bitter old man has a sore throat from screaming socio-political warnings that all came true. Auld lang syne hath been forgot. The divide is unapproachable, and it’s all I can do to stay awake until midnight anymore.

On the other hand, nothing’s really changed. The world has always thought that it controls its own fate … and all these lost souls are still ones for whom Christ died. Every single one of them needs him, including me.

I vividly remember the turn of the millennium. After months of being peddled threats of Armageddon, on the night of Y2K, I walked outside a friend’s apartment in suburban Detroit at midnight. I stood in the middle of the normally–frenetic–now–ghostly–street, and watched as the world did not in fact end. No lights went out, no planes fell from the sky, no sound was heard except for the whistle of a crisp wind journeying along the blacktop blissfully unaware of the calendar. “Oh well,” I said, and went back in for some sparkling wine (I was only 15 that night).

The world isn’t ending at our command; it will end at Christ’s coming. 2022 will not be “better” than 21, 20, or any other year; it’ll be more of the same. There will be more violence, there will be more hate, there will be more elites growing fat with manipulation and lies. The brokenness of humanity has an infinite number of variants in the bag, and no amount of injected spike proteins will hinder the final day of eschatological judgment.

But for those who know where to look, 2022 will also bring peace; 2022 will also bring forgiveness; 2022 will also bring hope. The means of grace will be sheltered in the humility of preaching, in three splashes of water, and in weekly meals of bread and wine. The church will go about its business as usual in 2022, and she will survive another year of increased vilification in the public square. Wisdom is justified by her children, and even though almost everything I predicted the past two years came true, my NY’s resolution is to replace my “I-told-you-so’s” with the open arms of auld lang syne. Frankly, my throat is sore from screaming and my stomach hurts from worrying. I can’t make you stop destroying yourself, world. But I can offer you comfort when you crawl back to the church bleeding and humiliated. We’re still here waiting for you, and we’ll even kill the fattened calf in celebration.

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend,

Give us a hand of thine;

We’ll take a very hearty drink

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear, 

For auld lang syne;

We’ll take the cup of Christ, my friend,

For auld lang syne.