Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Still Hallelujah

The other day I was driving home, listening to the 2016 Pentatonix album for Christmas.  On it is the song Hallelujah.  Have you ever heard it before? There are so many different musicians who have released versions of it - this is only one of them. It was written by Leonard Cohen in 1984.  (There is an interesting Rolling Stones article about it here).

The song starts us telling us about David, and then David watching Bathsheba, and we move into Samson. It's not a song about the beautiful nature of God, but is instead full of statements that we are broken - and yet still we cry "Halleluah."

The article has an excerpt from  The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of 'Hallelujah' by Alan Light.
"A blaze of light in every word." That's an amazing line. Every word, holy or broken – this is the fulcrum of the song as Cohen first wrote it. Like our forefathers, and the Bible heroes who formed the foundation of Western ethics and principles, we will be hurt, tested, and challenged. Love will break our hearts, music will offer solace that we may or may not hear, we will be faced with joy and with pain. But Cohen is telling us, without resorting to sentimentality, not to surrender to despair or nihilism. Critics may have fixated on the gloom and doom of his lyrics, but this is his offering of hope and perseverance in the face of a cruel world. Holy or broken, there is still hallelujah.
I love that last line - Holy or broken, there is still hallelujah.

Later, Lincoln Brewster sang a version of the song called Another Hallelujah.  It is a song of praise, without any of the brokenness of the Cohen version. It feels stripped of something to me. There is nothing wrong with a song of praise, of course, but it is the brokenness of the original that demonstrates to us the necessity of God - why we need God.

Read the Psalms. These poems are full of praise and despair. Glory and hopelessness. We might want to ignore the Psalm that speaks of dashing baby's against rocks, but to deny that poem is to deny the pain that calls to God. We can't rewrite the brokenness out of our lives. It is there. And holy or broken, there is still hallelujah.



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