"Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die; Alleluia is the anthem ever raised by choirs on high; In the house of God abiding thus they sing eternally.
"Alleluia cannot always be our song while here below; Alleluia, our transgressions make us for a while forgo; For the solemn time is coming when our tears for sin must flow."
On the final Sunday before Lent, some churches may "bury" the word alleluia, perhaps placing a banner with the word in a box or carrying the banner out of the sanctuary. Even without such ceremonies, many congregations will not sing alleluia during Lenten worship. Lent is a season of repentance rather than rejoicing as we remember Jesus' suffering and death. We save our glad alleluias for the joy of Easter morning.
Alleluia (from a Greek word; the spelling Hallelujah is from Hebrew) means "Praise the Lord!" This happy word is a "voice of joy" that never really dies away. It is praise that ceaselessly resounds through the courts of heaven: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God" (Revelation 19:1b). In heaven the song continues, but here on earth our alleluias are not always heard.
For now, during Lent, our transgressions make us forego the use of that joyful word of praise. Remembering the sins for which our Lord died, the songs we sing are songs of repentance: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions" (Psalm 51:1). Our tears must flow as we grieve over our sins, but it is a "godly grief" that leads to salvation (see 2 Corinthians 7:10), the salvation won for us through Jesus' death and resurrection. That is what Lent is all about. We will sing eternal praise for our salvation in Christ Jesus, but in our earthly worship there are no alleluias along the road to the cross. That joyful praise will wait until Easter morning when we stand together at Jesus' empty tomb.
On this last Sunday before Lent, we sing our alleluias one more time. During the solemn season that begins on Ash Wednesday, repentance will shape our praise. Our joy in the Lord is always with us, but for a short time, it is a subdued joy as we sing of Jesus' final steps to the cross. But we really do not have to wait too long, just forty days. On Easter morning we will gather to worship and our glad alleluias will echo from earth to heaven and back again. But perhaps, just for today, we can anticipate the joy to come and use that happy word one more time: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as I remember Your suffering and death, I look forward to the glad alleluias of Easter morning. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn "Alleluia, Song of Gladness," which is number 417 in the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Can a "godly grief" over our sins be beneficial to our spiritual growth?
2. How has God's abundant mercy in Jesus blotted out all our transgressions?
3. Lent is a season of reflection and repentance. How does singing "Alleluia!" fit in?
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