I have hesitated so long in writing about this. And it is something that really bugs me. A lot. You know that song, “Hallelujah” that is in Shrek? The one EVERYONE is making a cover of? (Even the Shrek version is a cover). That is NOT THE SORT OF SONG YOU WANT TO SING IN CHURCH, PEOPLE! It is not a worship song. It certainly does not qualify as a hymn. It has a beautiful melody, and is haunting at times, but it is not about loving God. It is about a relationship gone bad. And the writer used Biblical examples of relationships gone bad. His point, per the biographical articles I have read, was to show that all sorts of Hallelujahs are valid, if we are crying out to God. Even the bad ones. Even moments of extreme joy found in the arms of the person you love (and are hopefully married to) are forms of an Hallelujah to God. I have seen post after post, and release after release of this song as part of Christmas programs or albums. It is NOT a Christmas song, my friends! Have you actually read the lyrics????? One part supposedly refers to the moment of the Immaculate Conception when the Holy Spirit covers the Blessed Virgin Mary and Christ is conceived. Yeah. That particular moment is a sort of Hallelujah, too. You can stretch it to mean you are worshipping God, but it is set in a carnal sense and does not suppose to reach the ecclesiastical heights of a Church song or hymn. It is couched in sexuality and to stretch it to the spiritual is, indeed, a stretch. Here is a peek at the 4th verse:
“There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah”
Yeah. That is not something I want my kids or grandkids to learn for the Christmas program at Church! There is a huge discussion online about why this song has become so popular. Leonard Cohen, who wrote it, was interviewed and one of the articles said this: “The word ‘hallelujah,’ he teaches us, is a refrain worthy of times of celebration, of mourning, of regret, of catharsis, and reconciliation. The original song is the story of broken love, true love remembered and mourned, guilt, and penance, and of finding peace in the vicissitudes of brokenness — themes with a myriad of applications and dimensions. The song, reflecting the diverse substance of its own lyrics, has seen a lot of life, and death. It’s for this reason that the significance of Hallelujah isn’t likely to wane anytime soon.”
There has been so much controversy over songs and lyrics this holiday season. “Baby it’s cold outside” to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” One meme I saw cracked me up because it said, “Everyone is upset about Baby being cold outside, but no one worries about Grandma being run over by reindeer. Grandmas Matter, too!” Ha-Ha-Ha.
We really are what we eat, listen to, watch, and read. We are who we associate with. It impacts our hearts and souls. So, what do the lyrics of the songs you listen to speak to your heart about? Many, many years ago, while visiting my mother-in-law, I asked her why she constantly listened to only Christian music, piped through the house. And her reply stunned me, “Because I am not a very good Christian, I need to listen to this to keep me on track.” She would also record sewing shows and sports. And that is pretty much all. She really controlled what she saw and listened to, and who she associated with. I learned much from her. And in this day and age, when there is just so much junk food thrown at us in the guise of entertainment, we must really guard our senses.
I was asked about fasting the other day. I explained that intermittent fasting is medically proven to enhance our immune system. But one of the benefits of fasting within our faith traditions is that we not only find focus and clarity, we find an increase in the practice of prayer. And prayer enhances our lives. It helps us focus on God, and not what we eat. It shows us again how we should monitor everything we take in, be it food, songs, movies, etc. And so it is, at Christmas time. We are in a period called, “Advent.” This is the time where we fast and prepare to welcome the Christ Child, into that lowly manger, on that cold night, thousands of years ago. We work so hard to prepare to have the best Christmas ever, every year. But are we fasting from the things of this world, to invest our time in preparing for the coming of our Savior?
Well, the lyrics of the song, “Hallelujah,” are certainly not lyrics that bring us closer to the Manger at Christmas, or to Christ, most days of the year. It is shrouded in beautiful music and tonality, taking us away on another plane as we listen. And yes, there are all sorts of Hallelujahs and all sorts of ways to praise God. But this particular song, to me, just does not measure up. I have seen memes complaining about the song, “Mary, did you know?” because they all say, “Yes, she knew! Of course she knew! She accepted the promise of an Angel, and she knew she was carrying the Son of God. She knew! Stop it already!” And I get that. It is still a lovely song. I recall looking longingly at my newborn sons, wondering what their lives had in store for them. And although Mary knew her Son was the Son of God, I am sure the details were left to unfold as He grew in age and wisdom (“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52). So what do we do with all these aberrant songs and lyrics? I think we need to really look where our money goes. Do you buy those records? (Forgive my age – downloads or CDs?). Give them airtime? Like them on social media? I was asked to like a version today, and all I could comment was, “Interesting version.” I cannot condone the symphonic treatment of it, in all that pomp and circumstance, for Christmas fare. I do like the sound, although the version was not my favorite.
I just wish people who get upset over these lyrics about when “it’s cold outside,” would realize there are far worse examples. And that some of these songs are not Church hymns, nor are they appropriate for Christmas programs or children’s programs. Some schools are actually changing the lyrics of traditional songs, to be more inclusive. That is the subject for another blog post!! So, which is your favorite Christmas Carole and why?
“…I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”