Praise God in his holy temple;
praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts;
praise him for his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the ram's-horn;
Praise him with lyre and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe.
Praise him with resounding cymbals;
praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
praise the Lord.
- Psalm 150
I was griping on Facebook yesterday that Pentatonix has covered Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and put it on their Christmas album. "This is not a Christmas song!" I complained. And then a fellow priest pointed out that it could very well be an Advent song. Too true, I had to admit, looking at my Advent playlist on Spotify and seeing the Jeff Buckley version sitting right there. The secular world doesn't draw a distinction between Advent and Christmas, so it could certainly be called a holiday song.
The final psalm in the Bible is all about the word "Hallelujah," which is a form of the Hebrew verb halal, "to praise." Leonard Cohen's song--which I think found its finest form in Buckley's 1995 cover--deepens this word tremendously. And my one gripe with Buckley's version is that it leaves out this verse:
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but "hallelujah"
This is what the world feels like to me right now. Have you felt similarly? We don't praise God because things are going well. We praise God because God is God.
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken "hallelujah"
We don't love because it makes us feel good. We love because love is the only worthwhile choice--even when all else fails.