Thursday, December 30, 2004

Auld Lang Syne

Remembering Friends

The most commonly sung song for English-speakers on New Year's Eve, "Auld Lang Syne" is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area of Scotland, Burns's homeland.

It is often remarked that "Auld Lang Syne" is one of the most popular songs that nobody knows the lyrics to. "Auld Lang Syne" literally translates as "old long since" and means "times gone by." The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness, "For auld lang syne, we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet."

The lesser known verses continue this theme, lamenting how friends who once used to "run about the braes,/ And pou'd the gowans fine" (run about the hills and pulled up the daisies) and "paidl'd in the burn/Frae morning sun till dine" (paddled in the stream from morning to dusk) have become divided by time and distance—"seas between us braid hae roar'd" (broad seas have roared between us). Yet there is always time for old friends to get together—if not in person then in memory—and "tak a right guid-willie waught" (a good-will drink).

I received the information above from a Greek Orthodox Yahoo group. It is true that I have heard the song and tried to hum my way through it every new year but I had no clue what the words were or the significance of those words. I remember playing in my high school jazz band on New Year’s Eve this song to a bunch of drunk adults.

At the end of the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence the Angel leaves George Bailey a copy of Mark Twain’s adventure story, Tom Sawyer. Surrounded by scores of friends singing in celebration of Christmas, George smilingly opens the front cover, and we see what Clarence has wisely written: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

Recently I gave a message on the importance of being a friend. The first trait of friendship that I focused on was dependability.

In 1 Samuel 18:1-4 we read that after David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

This covenant agreement made between David and Jonathan is like a pinkie swear but more. This pinkie swear goes beyond a promise, this covenant becomes an exchange of identity. They are now both equals.

We read that Jonathan gave David his robe, this is what identified Jonathan as prince, the heir to the throne of Saul. This identity was now given to David by Jonathan.

Next we read that Jonathan gives David his sword, his bow and his belt. All of this represents Jonathan’s strength in battle. Also this represents an alliance against each others enemies. They will now always be on the same side in battle. Jonathan’s enemies are now David’s enemies; David’s enemies are Jonathan’s enemies.

In 2 Samuel David gets an opportunity to honor this covenant. Jonathan has died in battle and leaves behind a crippled son. David brings this young man into his own home, adopts him as his own and cares for him.

Now most of us will not have the opportunity to stand up against our friend’s enemies the way David did for Jonathan. But we get opportunities to demonstrate dependability to our friends. Some thoughts on what dependability means to me:

Dependability is trust

Dependability is honesty

Dependability is being reliable

Dependability is keeping a promise

Dependability is integrity

I wonder sometimes how dependable am I?

As I start the new year I hope that nothing divides me from those that are my friends. I pray that I never forget those that have been there for me. That I will take from the cup of kindness and remember them with fondness!

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