by Hugh Farquhar
The Psalm Selection designated for this Sunday is Psalm 147:12-20
This Psalm is from a section of Psalms called “Praise Psalms,” and this portion of it opens with a burst of praise, “Hallelujah . . . praise your God.”
This is a parallelism, common in the Psalms. The second line repeats the first with different words and gives it emphasis. It’s like saying something twice.
I have never forgotten words spoken by a former Moderator of the United Church of Canada, Rev. Bob Smith, at the funeral of the Rev. Howie Mills, who at the time of his death was its General Secretary. Some would say he was in the prime of his life. His death was sudden and left his family and friends stunned. The words that Bob spoke were, “Hallelujah anyway!”
That’s really what faith is.
Sometimes we set up in our minds a life perspective formula that credits God if things go well from our standpoint and dismisses God if they don’t. That’s “Hallelujah If.”
When bad things happen to good people (to use Rabbi Harold Kushner’s phrase), it is not difficult to understand why anger, doubt, and questioning arise.
But they can all be part of faith. Faith isn’t pretending that everything is hunky-dory when it’s not; faith is placing the ambiguities of life in the context of God’s loving relationship with us.
As a Canadian theologian, Reginald Stackhouse wrote, “We did not learn to believe in God because the world was a wonderful place. We learned to believe because that faith could help us make our way in a world with shadows as well as sunshine.”
Let’s not let Christmas be over yet. It’s a Season not a day.
Let’s remain in Bethlehem for the time being, regardless of how things happen to be going for us. The Gift we find there is a Saviour who has come to be one of us and one with us, to understand first-hand what it means to be human, and to flesh out God’s unconditional love for us. When people accept this Gift, somehow, they are enabled to say “Hallelujah Anyway.”
I meet them just about everyday. They stir my heart and renew my faith.
We miss the point of the Christmas Story if we do not see that it has to do with when life is hard and hearts are heavy.
Christmas proclaims that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We can be threatened by all manner of things in this life, but God’s love is invincible, and once you’ve experienced it, somehow you want to sing “hallelujah anyway,” whatever happens – if only quietly and with a lump in your throat.
Hugh Farquhar is Minister Emeritus at St. Paul’s United Church, Riverview, New Brunswick as well as being an Instructor in Biblical Studies at Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, NS.