Song Title: New Years Eve
Artist: Five Iron Frenzy
Album: The End is Here
Label: Self Released
You might wonder why, four weeks deep into January, I’m writing on a song about the final day of last year. Obviously, this was my plan all along– to refrain from publishing when most readers are busy celebrating with loved ones, and hit you with conviction just as motivation for 2017 is beginning to lose steam. Clearly, the timing has nothing to do with my own hesitation or procrastination…
Heh, okay that’s not true, but perhaps God will use the peculiar timing of this amazing song nonetheless. Five Iron Frenzy is an exceptionally thought-provoking and talented band (a better question may be why it took us geeks so many years to write about them), and “New Years Eve” is a gem that honestly expresses hardship, while illuminating genuine hope. Whether you entered 2017 with optimism or skepticism as your prevailing mood, there’s room for you to relate and true rest found in Christ within these lyrics.
Feel of the Song
I’ll keep this section short and sweet: Five Iron Frenzy is a ska punk band, that has steadily refined their sound since 1995 to what frontman Reese Roper explains as “rock with horns.” Brass instruments definitely keep things interesting, but otherwise it seems like familiar alternative rock with no shortage of energy. For “New Years Eve,” that passion is directed into an overall mood that’s relatively contemplative, emotional, and sweeping towards a hopeful crescendo.
Lyrics and Meaning
Read or listen (there’s a play button on the very top-left of this article) to these lyrics carefully, and you will notice that the verses have a very different attitude than that of the chorus. They aren’t completely separate, but their thoughts are certainly in tension against one another.
It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m full of empty promises
I half pretend to keep this time
Just like last year
The band is loud and I’m wandering the shadows
Wishing I was never here
That’s most of the first verse, and the songwriter continues by describing crowds who raise their glasses and kiss the past goodbye as “whitewashed tombs.” I think we can safely assume that Reese’s issue is deeper than a history of embarrassing New Year’s parties… but before you conclude that he’s a total cynic toward the holiday and its potential for change, consider these words:
This New Year’s Eve, I’m waiting for tomorrow
My heart is on my sleeve, and yes I still believe
This New Year’s Eve, will turn out better than before
I’m holding on, still holding out
Until they close the door… on me
Through the chorus, we realize he still holds hope that somehow things will get better, remaining vulnerable with this expectation. Therefore, it’s not positive thoughts or enjoying a party that the songwriter opposes… but he is exposing how shallow and misled these festivities often are, glossing over obstacles which carry into January and promoting human willpower as the basis for improvement. “And then with thunderous praise and lofty adoration / A second passes by… yet nothing changes.”
As the end of the song draws near, frustration and regret descend to their darkest point. “I hate my skin, this grave I’m standing in / Another change of years, and I wish I wasn’t here.” Thankfully, this broken lament ultimately serves as contrast, as the following bridge and modified chorus very simply yet powerfully underscore where solid hope and infinite renewal are truly found.
A year goes by and I’m staring at my watch again
And I dig deep this time
For something greater than I’ve ever been
Life to ancient wineskins. And I was blind, but now I see
This New Year’s Eve, something must change me inside
I’m crooked and misguided, and tired of being tired
This New Year’s Eve, I’m waiting for tomorrow
My heart is on my sleeve, and yes I still believe, in You
Perhaps, like the songwriter, your own experience since New Year’s has been characterized by tension. For as much as 2017 suggests bright opportunity… there are also dreams unfulfilled, people no longer in our life, and constant trials following us regardless of an arbitrary division in time. Sometimes the annual transition is more a painful reminder than anything.
But followers of Christ can look through and beyond their pattern of failure, all the way two thousand years back– when Jesus established the only meaningful division of history, by making an instrument of shameful torture into the means of eternal salvation. How much more will He faithfully nurture and preserve us, His bride?
Here are just a few truths of how God makes us new, and it’s a promise forever regardless of our prior experiences or present circumstances:
You are called a “new creation” (2 Corinthains 5:17), with your worth and identity securely anchored in what Jesus did for you. That means you actually can wave goodbye to the sin and guilt of your past now buried in Christ’s tomb, and choose daily to step into the newness of life purchased by His resurrection.
The Holy Spirit decided before time began, that it was a cool idea to make His home within you and never move out (Ephesians 1:13-14). He’s also described as bringing a new, softened heart to love and obey God… without which even the Israelites acted faithless despite witnessing His manifest presence and miraculous provision.
The Lord has already prepared good works for us to walk into (Ephesians 2:10)… not in the sense of tedious rituals or attempts to earn His grace, but rather as a loving overflow of our redemption– walking more and more like Jesus, building up the Church, making Him known in every nation, and appearing blameless before Him at the end before entering an eternal home where all things become new.
In light of this hope, the marker of a new year seems empty and small indeed. And yet, so far as these little reminders like the New Year or a birthday or the spring season point us to Who holds the future and gave us a new spiritual birth, they serve a helpful purpose.
Don’t lose hope. Keep wearing your heart on your sleeve. Believe fully in our wonderful God.
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