have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness -
on them light has shined.
- Isaiah 9
I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
- 2 Peter 1
Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" They kept heaping many other insults on him.
- Luke 22
During the season of Lent, we don’t use the word “Hallelujah/Alleluia” in worship. We keep it buried until the Resurrection is proclaimed.
Advent is different. We don’t shy away from that ancient cry of joy and praise. But in my worship, Hallelujah has a different flavor during Advent. It’s deeper, full of the expectation of true joy yet not forgetting for a moment the pain that is the flip side of joy. When we give ourselves to love, we open ourselves up to a world of potential pain as well as joy.
The 1993 movie Shadowlands starred Anthony Hopkins as C. S. Lewis and Debra Winger as his wife, Joy Gresham. The two get married during a time when Joy’s cancer is in remission. They enjoy several joyful years together. But Joy reminds him: “The pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.”
After her death, C. S. Lewis recalls her words, only reversed this time: “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”
Joy does not mean mere blithe feelings of pleasure. It includes all the pain that comes with surrendering a part of yourself to another. I imagine Jesus saying to us, “Love. It’ll hurt. It might even kill you. But trust me: it’s the only thing that works.”
As Leonard Cohen wrote: “Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and it’s a broken ‘hallelujah.’” Here’s Jeff Buckley’s 1994 version of that incredible song.