There’s a lot about Lent that you won’t find in the Bible, but for centuries, Christians have treated the weeks leading up to the death of Christ as a special time of reflection and self-discipline. Last week, we talked a little about what it means to give up something for Lent, but this week, I want to take a moment to reexamine another tradition in many churches.
Last Wednesday, many of my friends in other protestant traditions posted pictures on facebook where the prominently displayed word “hallelujah” or “alleluia” was covered up in their sanctuaries, not to be seen or spoken again until Easter Sunday. While we haven’t observed this ritual very rigorously at Bayshore, many churches will prohibit the saying of “hallelujah” during Lent out of respect for the solemnity of the season. I don’t want to disparage this sign of respect, but since I’ve used the word four times already in this one post, you may have guessed that I have a slightly different take.
Appearing throughout Scripture (but especially in Psalms and Revelation), hallelujah means “Praise God”. The word can be a simple expression of praise (“Praise be to God!”) or it can be a command (“Hey you, praise God!”). It appears in countless hymns and choruses and famous prayers, and it has been a crucial part of Christian worship for millennia.
Abstaining from the word hallelujah is a way of keeping the mood somber and reflective, and it gives the word that much more power when we can finally speak it again, but is it worth it? While it’s an important tradition for many Christians, is there ever a time where the word hallelujah shouldn’t be on our lips? Is there ever a time where we shouldn’t be praising God and calling others to do the same? I can’t help but think of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
While I respect the sense of reverence involved in this tradition, it seems to me that abstaining from hallelujah denies one of our primary tasks as Christians. Praising God is our main purpose. All that we do should reflect His glory. All that we do should show His love to a world that so desperately needs it. For that reason, I’ve made the decision not to observe this particular tradition. While I respect those who do abstain from saying hallelujah, to go about this season with any word on our lips other than “Praise be to God” seems like too dangerous a proposition.
Grace and Peace,