A Warm and a Joyful Hallelujah

HalejulahPsalms 150:6: Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

I don’t know if you follow what passes for pop music these days. I don’t bother, largely because I consider most of what comes out to be a waste of time, demonstrating neither literary merit nor musical talent. Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. I think I’ve officially gone into curmudgeonhood.

I remember in the days of AM radio dominating the airwaves the various countdown shows, counting down (oddly enough) the records that had sold the most or made the most money or caused the stock market to soar or whatever. There was a version for black-and-white television transplanted from the radio called Your Hit Parade. This featured covers of popular songs with really bad singing, uncoordinated dancing and cheesy sets. Yeah, and we loved it. I would get so excited when it was time to reveal number one, I would hop around our living room like a frog. There are a lot of ways to show anticipation, and that’s one of them, although, I grant you, not too popular or widespread. My excitement was decidedly misplaced, because the number one song was generally the same as the week before, or the number two song from the week before. Still, this occurrence didn’t lessen my thrill at finding out number one.

The people who ran Your Hit Parade had what we might call peculiar sensibilities. I remember one year around Christmas time when “Tom Dooley,” that carol of comfort and joy, was number one. The host (or one of the hosts—they all looked pretty much alike) apologized for singing a murder ballad at such a joyful season, as if listening to it might ruin Christmas for millions of loyal fans. Apparently doing the song didn’t cause a groundswell of demands for the producers’ resignations, because the cast was back in place the next week, looking undistinguishable from each other, dancing like a herd of wounded buffalo and also singing like one. Not a pretty sight.

Anyhow, what I was saying a while ago about popular music is not true of all such music. There are some good songs, about every thousand releases or so. One such song is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” released in 1984 and used in a number of movies and televisions shows. If you haven’t heard the song, it basically uses Biblical allusions to King David, Sampson, the Holy Spirit and God to make a point about the difficulty of praise for us in times of difficulty. Several lines go:

(Hallelujah) is not a cry you can hear at night.
It’s not somebody who has seen the light.
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

Cohen makes a valid point, I think, that sometimes our hallelujahs are cold and broken, but of course they are not at other points.

Our younger Alyssa had “Hallelujah” sung at her wedding last October, at which point in the ceremony I forget. I thought it an appropriate, meaningful selection.

The point of all this is that sometimes our hallelujahs are cold and broken; at other times they are warm and healed. I pray that this may be so for each of us, as we praise God for all God has done and work to make every child of God’s song such an expression of praise.