Now that we have baked our cookies and trimmed our trees,
now that we have wrapped our gifts and planned our dinners,
now that we have hung stockings, sent greetings and set tables,
assembled toys, trimmed wicks, written Santa and hung wreaths,
the time has come to abandon it all,
if only for a moment.
Even as we anticipate our day of celebration,
Wisdom turns to extinguish the colorful strings of lights and dim the gleaming star.
Pinching out her candles
Wisdom sighs the music away, then brushes laughter off to rest in deepening drifts of silence.
Standing in stillness before her window,
Wisdom gazes toward the mystery of Christmas
And smiles at this truth – Christmas needs us not at all.
Christmas depends not at all on our planning
and cares not a whit for our preparations.
Christmas is neither a sale nor a dinner,
neither a gathering nor a party.
Christmas cannot be reduced to the worship of believers
or the customs of the world.
Christmas is everywhere and nowhere at once,
like moonlight or a passing breeze.
It is the song of hidden birds and the thrill of sudden flight,
a hallelujah sung in secret
by exultant, broken-winged angels.
Christmas is a voice
telling an unbelievable tale with the confidence of a child
who murmurs to a single, astonished heart.
Christmas is a song,
rising and lilting to confound arrogance and pride.
Christmas is a sob, a peal of laughter,
a ripple of joy ringing through the night,
a sudden gasp of exaltation and love.
Above all, Christmas is a story,
words piled upon words and yet more words,
words lovingly arranged by invisible hands
until their form becomes the Word, resonating with mystery and beauty.
In language so plain,
so simple and unadorned we nearly miss the mystery of it all,
John tells us Christmas is a celebration of this Word,
a blessed confrontation with the source and sustenance of life.
In the beginning was the Word, the good saint says,
and at the end will be the Word.
And in these middling times?
Amid these broken spaces
where the longing of our hearts meets the limits of our lives?
There, too, the promise holds,
the promise that the same Word that spoke order out of chaos,
that enrobed itself in human flesh and came to enliven both heaven and earth
will echo forever down the corridors of our lives.
The Word of Christmas is a Word of promise and hope.
It is a Word that endures in the midst of emptiness.
It is a Word that cuts a path through brokenness and pain.
It is a Word that challenges every easy assumption of our lives
and it is a Word best sung by angels,
their voices rising strong and sure into the night.
These are the nights when angels sing.
And if the tune has changed,
if the lyrics seem unfamiliar,
if the secret chords compelling their song
seem unlikely to have echoed that first Christmas night,
it is the same Word still.

Comments always are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

79 thoughts on “Hallelujah

    1. C.C.,

      It’s such a rich season, filled with such diverse celebrations. I’m glad you stopped by to share mine. Best wishes to you and yours for the holidays, and for the coming New Year!


    1. belleofthecarnival,

      Thanks so much. This is one of those funny posts – though I ended with KD, the post actually started after I heard her version of Cohen’s song for the first time. It went full circle, so to speak.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, and all those you love!


        1. It does, indeed. I remember you writing about the concert and what a gift it was that you were able to attend. He’s written several songs that touch my heart, although he’s not my favorite singer. I certainly wouldn’t decline the chance to see him in concert, though!

      1. Absolutely right, Al. My suspicion is that some of us were programmed so early and so well to “know” that initials-in-place-of-names always are capitalized that we can’t help ourselves. ;)

        I still have to stop and think about e.e. cummings when I mention him. In fact, I just went and looked it up again. It seems his publishers used e.e., in imitation of his poetic style, but he preferred E.E. I can’t remember what our teachers told us about that.

        1. And some of us have programs that know better than we do that both names must be capitalized…So they do it automatically for us when we forget…

          1. Yep. I don’t use the spell-check or grammar-check programs, but I do a lot of manual checking, and just like the programs, I can get tripped up from time to time.

            I just looked at the water vapor and it doesn’t look nearly as good as I’d hoped for rain. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we don’t get the weather equivalent of coal and switches!

            1. We had a line move through in the past hour or so…dropped all of .07 inches before the sun came out and the skies cleared…maybe later.

  1. Hello Linda:

    Thank you so much. I also believe that Christmas is the story of the Word that reverberates across the Universe and extends into the Infinite.

    Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to you and your loved ones. It has been a spiritual journey following your blog posts.


    1. Omar,

      And it’s been a delight having you with me while I explore this wonderful world we share. It won’t be long before that midnight feast – Merry Christmas to you and your family (especially the Twisters!)


  2. WP is being very odd…work going on in the back office? So I will take that as a sign I should be elsewhere?
    Thanks for sharing Words with us. Couldn’t be better. (and now I have to give up as WP is nutty and I’m trying not to have a frenzied Christmas)

    1. phil,

      WP always has an oddity or two floating about. They tend to turn their coders loose on the weekend when they have great new ideas to try out on us – maybe that’s it. In any event, I’m delighted to see you – at least you’re smart enough to bail when it’s not working for you!

      Thanks for the kind words. Dixie sends a paw wave over to Molly and RC, and I’m sending along best wishes for a totally non-frenzied Christmas. Just flatten any inflatables before Christmas Eve – it sounds like there may be Weather.


  3. Thank you, Linda, for the KD video. This song has meant a lot to me for many years. I think it should be sung during the holiday season. In a season filled with nonsense, this song is grounding.

    1. Martha,

      There is some nonsense involved with the Christmas season – just as there is with most human celebration. But there’s much beauty, too, and promises that resonate with many people.

      Of course, there are different ways to communicate those promises, and I agree with you – Cohen’s song is a good way. It’s not only grounding, it’s firmly grounded in something much larger than sentimentality.

      It’s funny – I’ve had an unhappy Christmas or two in my life. I probably would hve appreciated this song back then, too – but Cohen hadn’t written it yet!

      Best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday.


    1. Rosemary,

      I’m so glad you found something special tucked in here for you. That particular phrase is rooted in lessons learned through too many years of “shoulds”, “oughts” and “musts” when it comes to Christmas. It is, after all, meant to be a celebration, and it most certainly will arrive even if we didn’t get all the cookies baked or the gorgeous hand-made wreath completed.

      Best wishes to you and your loved ones – for an enjoyable Christmas, and a creative New Year.


  4. Beautiful post. Loved the singing and while I was at it I listened to an entire song by Il Divo. K.D. Lang’s version was moving for she put more enotional impact into the song. Wonderful post here Linda.

    1. Yvonne,

      I didn’t know Il Divo, and listened to their version, too. Thank you for mentioning them. I must admit I prefer either the Cohen or k.d. lang’s version. Il Divo’s seemed too “pretty” – but I’m sure it pleases some.

      Thanks so much for the kind words about the post. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Best wishes to you and all of yours (two-footed and four!) for the Christmas season and the year to come.


    1. nikkipolani,

      I’m happy you enjoyed it, and of course I’m not surprised where your favorite lines appear. In this beautiful season, the songs, poems and stories seem to write themselves.

      Merry Christmas to you all, especially to Roomie and your Mom, whom I’m sure is happy to be enjoying the seasonal treats without having to resort to that silly blender. Best wishes, too, for a prosperous and more care-free New Year!


  5. I’ll be sharing this with a few family members and friends. It is too lovely not to.

    Wishing you and Dixie Rose a wonderful Christmas and Happy New year.

  6. k.d. never fails to bring a tear to my eye with her beautiful voice. Her version of Skylark is my all time favorite thing of hers. Did you notice with that gorgeous plum satin long-tailed suit and skirt, that she was barefoot?
    I first encountered Leonard Cohen’s songs by way of the inimitable Judy Collins. Your Leonard Cohen deserves a Judy Collins reply.

    1. WOL,

      I certainly did notice the bare feet. Why she choose to perform that way I can’t say for certain, but it’s impossible not to see a reference to the commandment given Moses: “Take off your shoes, for the ground on which you stand is holy”.

      Judy Collins was a favorite, for years. Her version of Suzanne was my introduction to Cohen’s lyrics. Today, I rarely listen to her – strange how our preferences change. But I was delighted by the song you linked. It’s a good fit for the season.

      Merry Christmas!


  7. Wow…a lot to absorb! The festive season, or Christmas as it’s commonly known in Western countries, I guess means different things to each of us. To me it is about good spirit, goodwill, a sharing time, lots of smiles, whether one is alone or not, and to enjoy the Christmas songs. For instance, I’ve been listening to a Bing Crosby compilation called I Wish You a Merry Christmas, and I sing along! Thank you for the wonderful reading and ideas you provide. May you too have a Merry Christmas.

    1. janina,

      Bing Crosby was at the height of his popularity when I was young – or at least I remember it that way. His music was a part of our celebrations, that’s for sure, and his version of “Silver Bells” (with Rosemary Clooney) is my all-time favorite Christmas song.

      As a Christian celebration, Christmas is Christmas, everywhere in the world. But you’re exactly right – the season has been adopted differently in different cultures, and it’s wonderful to see all the variations.

      However you celebrate, I wish you a holiday filled with sharing and smiles! And thanks for stopping by with such a lovely comment. You’re always welcome.

      Merry Christmas!


      1. Thank you, Linda, for your welcome. I do read you regularly; I enjoy the way you express your thoughts and feelings. As to Bing, I think I’ve seen most of his movies on the TV over the years and especially enjoyed his earlier work. His gentle singing style feeds the ‘romantic’ in me! :O)

        1. My Mom was a great fan of Bing, too. The day she discovered Turner Classic Movies was a great day around here! I think she was more of a romantic than she liked to let on.

  8. Simply beautiful.

    I found myself clipping this line before finishing, so I suppose it’s the part that speaks most to me: Christmas is everywhere and nowhere at once,
    like moonlight or a passing breeze.
    So true.

    Merry Christmas, Linda.

    1. HIppie Cahier,

      That’s one of my favorite lines, too. It’s truer than I realized when I wrote it. I’m glad you found it beautiful, and I hope your celebrations are equally beautiful. (I know a certain arrival helped make the time happy!)

      Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the New Year!


  9. One day the rain takes out our power.. the next day the power is working but the internet is not.. oh, but if that’s as bad as my days get, I am lucky!

    I am also lucky to have found you, your blog and your kindred friendship through wordpress. Had I not, this lovely post and lovely song would not have given me deep comfort this morning! ah.. I read the post, then did a bit of cooking while the song loaded (how does one spell slow internet?) and then returned to play the song.. ah… lovely!
    so I played it again then read your beautiful words a second time and savored each line as the song played.

    This is what the season is about.

    hallelujah for people like you!


    1. Z,

      On a quick browse before going into Houston today, I saw your note about the changing seasons, the rain and the effects it has on your connection. We’ll ask Santa to bring you speed and dependability, internet-wise!

      One of the gifts you have to share with us is the importance of savoring life – not just an occasional post, or a particularly good dinner, but each and every experience that comes our way. Of course there are times when “just getting it done” is important, and there isn’t a way to plumb the depths of every moment. I’m not even certain we’re meant to do so. But far too often, we glide across the surface of life, never pausing to partake of friendliness, openness, truth, comfort. I’m thinking, of course, of your post about the children – they have so much to teach us.

      It’s nearly time for your midnight dinner! I was thinking of you earlier – it’s warm here, and the crickets and nightbirds seem not to realize what’s barreling their way – storms, and cold. For now, it’s such a beautiful, semi-tropical Christmas eve I’ve even lost my hankering for snow. I hope yours is equally beautiful.


      1. Hey! At one thirty, I was delighted to be the first to leave! I told them that I was about to fall face first into my plate! what a unique evening – much different from last year’s, though at midnight everyone stopped what they were doing and exchanged greetings. next door at the catholic church, many people who attended mass brought with them their little Christ child and placed each one on the altar. at midnight, they returned home with the child. my friends have a nativity scene in front of their store, and the child was placed in its manger at midnight. chairs had been put outside facing the scene, and different people came and sat there and sang songs til baby jesus was placed there. then my friends served their guests outside – about 25 of them. then we ate upstairs in the home above the corner store.
        we had pan de yucca and stuffed turkey and baked turkey breast in a pineapple sauce and rice (!) and salad and and i am stuffed!

        When a friend said, ‘lisa, i will take you home if you’d like,’ i didn’t have to have him ask a second time!

        and now i’m going to sleep!

        thanks for thinking of me, dear friend. and thanks for the kind words!


        1. What a wonderful description of a wonderful evening! I love the custom of taking the Christ child to the church and then bringing it home to place it in the manger. I like the thought of people singing while they wait even more! Rest well, and treasure the memories!


  10. “Amid these broken spaces
    where the longing of our hearts meets the limits of our lives?
    There, too, the promise holds……”

    Linda, you are a wonderful writer. I have so enjoyed following your posts and your commenters this year. Many, many thanks – and for k. d. ‘s version of Hallelujah. It’s one of my all-time favourite songs.

    1. Anne,

      Haven’t we had a fun time since the Celts first brought us together? I was out looking at Jupiter and the moon tonight, wondering if the storminess that’s coming would pass by soon enough for me to see tomorrow night’s conjunction, and of course I thought of you. Whatever’s written in the stars for us in the next year, I have a strong feeling it will be good.

      I so much appreciate your supportive words, and your delightful comments. And I’m glad I included a favorite song for you. It’s one I never tire of, so I understand your affection for it.

      Best wishes for the season, and for the New Year to come!


  11. Awe — some!!!!!
    May the Spirit of Christmas infuse every particle of your life with blessings of joy and peace!! Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! Thank you for this year and being YOU!!

    1. becca,

      Speaking of the Spirit of Christmas, I suspect there’s a whole lot of that peace and joy filling up your world this week – along with a little gumbo and boudin blanc, perhaps? ;)

      Best wishes to you and yours as well. Earlier this evening I pulled up Tee Jules’s “Twelve Days of Christmas”, and just laughed. There are so many wondeful traditions and people in the world, and it’s great when we can share them with one another. I’m certainly looking forward to sharing another year of haiku, art and writing with you!

      Merry Christmas to you and yours – and every good wish for the New Year.


    1. montucky,

      Merry Christmas to you! I’m so looking forward to the New Year, and all the delights you’ll have for us. I keep thinking you’ll never surpass what’s been (like your little owl), but you always do.

      Enjoy your celebrations!


  12. Oh I love this Linda. Your poetry gets richer and fuller and more heartfelt. You paint such beautiful word pictures – for example

    “…Christmas is a sob, a peal of laughter…”

    hallelujah – so glad you shared this particular song. I listen to it and I weep. Every time. Yet I love it?

    1. dearrosie,

      One of the best nativity sets I’ve ever seen was created by a high school youth group. They made each of the characters themselves, and I must say, they had a few things to learn about art. But they had the concept down perfectly. There were shepherds, Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men, of course – but there also was a college student, a homeless man, a McDonald’s counter clerk, and so on.

      They understood that Christmas is for everyone, and it’s big enough to cotain every human emotion. Hence: sob, and peal of laughter. To be quite frank, I’m not quite sure how I managed to get this one “just right”, but I know those kids helped out!

      A lot of us respond as you do to “Hallelujah”. There’s room in that song for everyone, too.

      Enjoy your festivities!


  13. What a beautiful and moving moment reading your poetry on Christmas Day ! thank you so much, Linda. Of your touching words I will especially remember the paragraph starting with: “The Word of Christmas is a Word of promise and hope….” So true and deep.
    Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year ahead !

    1. Isa,

      Isn’t it such a delight – that people from countries so far separated can celebrate together, and hence feel closer? You have your mountains and vineyards, while I have palm trees and sea birds, but like people around the world, we share so much: quilts, poetry, concern for those we love and love for the stranger.

      I’m so happy to have had you stop by, and wish you every blessing, especially a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  14. Beautiful. I love listening to k.d. lang.

    Love this:

    “Christmas is everywhere and nowhere at once,
    like moonlight or a passing breeze.
    It is the song of hidden birds and the thrill of sudden flight,
    a hallelujah sung in secret
    by exultant, broken-winged angels.”


    Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays, Linda!

    1. Anna,

      Those words put me in mind of your recent “Kansas Prairie Trail” – the one you did with the palette knife. The landscape looks empty, but a little time and attention reveals oh, so much more living there.

      I hope my words and k.d. warmed you up a little. There’s a fifty degree difference between us! But our time is coming, and by the end of the day I’ll have to close the windows and find something to wear besides shorts and flip-flops.

      Merry Christmas to you and Preston. Who knows what the New Year will bring – maybe another visit!


  15. “Christmas needs us not at all”, indeed. But, oh, how I need Him!

    Merry Christmas, dear Linda. God bless you always, and thank you for blessing us with your beautiful blog and gifts. xoxo

    1. Bellezza,

      The beauty and wonder of it all is that the first Christmas need never have happened. But it did – and as with any gift, the only question remaining is, will we accept?

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, and special prayers for your son. May your New Year be filled with happiness and joy!


    1. FeyGirl,

      Thanks so much. Poignant is such a good word. It comes close to describing things like the Lang performance. As a commenter said above, she often experiences tears when she listens, but she still enjoys it.

      I hope your day was a good one. We had a temperature drop from 75 to 34, but I’m not holding Santa responsible for that! I hope you escape the truly bad weather that’s making its way east, and enjoy the rest of this festive season.


      1. Whoa that’s a drop-and-a-half! I’m visiting family in the Philadelphia area…. and it’s a tad chilly, heh heh! Long underwear: check. Heavy jacket: check. Constant gloves: check. :)

  16. I knew you had posted and was looking forward to my visit here. I saved you until the perfect time. I’m sitting here in my room in the very early morning and breathing in my respiratory treatment. This was perfection for me and I loved the video, too. Thank you. I hope your Christmas was enjoyed. Now I’m going back for one more read and one more listen.

    1. Bella Rum,

      First of all, I can’t tell you what a gift it is to find you here this morning. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about you a good bit since finding out you had fallen – PLOP! – into such a memorable Christmas. I’ve learned a good bit more about broncho-spasms, too. Have you considered the fact that those nice nurses and such may be abbreviating your condition on their charts as “BS”? It seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

      I re-read the post as if I were in your situation, and it does work rather well. Words are remarkably elastic. Like those silly sans-a-belt trousers my dad always wore, they can expand to contain more than we imagine possible.

      Truly, I’m glad you enjoyed this. Keep up those treatments, and be sure and tell H that we all think he’s better than Santa Claus, even if you throw in Rudolph and the Elves!

      hugs, Linda

  17. As has been the case before with your writings, one phrase jumped out at me: “deepening drifts of silence.” It initially drew my attention for its alliteration and the abstract nature of the image. Now, an hour later, it reminds me of my childhood winters on Long Island, when I would go out to shovel snow that had piled up on the sidewalks; everything was so quiet, especially if snow was still falling. And let that silence lead to another thought: your conclusion that “it is the same Word still” could just as well be “it is the same still Word.”

    1. Steve,

      I do so enjoy it when you find things in my writing I’ve not seen myself. “…it is the same still Word” would have worked – does work – beautifully.

      One thing that attracts me to this Lang performance is the “bubble” of silence that seems to envelop her throughout the song. It’s partly her focus and partly the nature of the accompaniment, but even when the audience decides to respond with cheers or applause, that “bubble” never breaks, until she’s ready for it to break.

      In a way, it’s not unlike shoveling or walking in a snowfall. Passing cars, shouted greetings, the sound of the shovel – all the noises of the world are there, but they seem to recede, becoming part of the silence.

      You may or may not know the work of photographer Lionel Orriols. He’s taken some remarkable photographs of snow .
      Looking at them, I can’t help remembering Christina Rosetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter”, with its wonderful line, “Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow…”

      The beauty of it all is that, even if we can’t have snow, there’s always silence to be found.


      1. Thanks for the introduction to the photography of Lionel Orriols (his last name, by the way, is Catalan, and it means ‘orioles’). Living in Europe as he does, he has access to snow in a way we’ll never know in central and coastal Texas. But then he doesn’t have wildflowers in December.

        “In the Bleak Midwinter,” because of the beautiful music written for the words by Gustav Holst (who in spite of his first and last names was British), has long been one of my favorite songs at this time of year. Imagine having enough snow for one layer of it to fall on another.

        I remember the sound of the aluminum shovel scraping along the cement of our sidewalk, but most of all I remember the silence when I stopped.

        1. After some searching, I found the version of “In the Bleak Midwinter” I was looking for and substituted it above. It’s from Gloucester Cathedral – a lovely combination of choir, congregation and acoustics. Holst’s setting is wonderful. I’ve tried to develop some affection for Harold Darke’s version, but still prefer the Holst.

          There’s only one winter sound I remember as fondly as the snow shovel – the sound of ice skates. If I could have one magic wish granted, I’d wish to go to Holland and skate the canals.

  18. Snow is a rarity in my State, yet I find the photography of Lionel Orriols strangely compelling. Many thanks for introducing him to me.

    1. eremophila,

      It’s quite something, isn’t it? There’s something about the combination of just-barely-there-human-habitation and the vast sweeps of snow that especially captures me.

      The other thing is the sheer extravagance of it all. A foot of snow slows down the world. Two feet stops it. Why do we need four or six feet of it? We don’t, of course, but nature seems to think need has nothing to do with it. It’s just beautiful, so she keeps piling it on.


  19. I wish I’d had time to read this before Christmas. I would have done then what I will do now – print this out and share it, not unlike grace at the table, but perhaps on Christmas Eve when all is calm and perfect.

    Thank you, my friend. I hope this lives on in the hearts not only of your readers here, but of others in a far wider world than blogland. It deserves so much.

    1. jeanie,

      After reading your Christmas post, I’m surprised you had time for anything! That’s all right – all that celebrating and gathering and cookie baking and such was far more important than sitting around reading blogs. I’m just glad you were in such fine spirits and obviously enjoying the heck out of it all.

      It honors me that you’d want to share it. That’s a wonderful gift in itself. Here’s hoping the New Year is filled with gifts for you – health, happiness, and plenty of time for who-knows-what-kind-of-projects. May the spirit and peace of Christmas live in your heart through the coming year!


  20. Glorious! I love this and wish I had read it the day you posted it. But I’m just now getting caught back up.

    Regarding the Coventry Carol – we have a Christmas album (Jennifer Rose, Christmas at Home) with that song on it. She sings a lot of the older songs (as in folk songs). She also has a new one on there – Kentucky Wassail :)

    1. The Bug,

      I saw you pop up over at Bella’s and caught your mention that you’d been out of pocket. I’m in the process of getting caught up, myself. When I try and figure out where December went, I never can answer the question. It’s Thanksgiving, and then it’s the First Sunday in Advent, and then – whoosh!

      So thanks for stopping by. This really is one of my favorite posts. It somehow “catches” Christmas for me, and of course k.d. lang’s a wonder.

      I found Jennifer on Last FM, and found the entire version of “Kentucky Wassail” on youtube, done by a girl who can play the mandolin pretty well. It’s a funny song – I especially like the verse about the old woman with the mouse for a pet.

      Happy New Year to you – it’s almost time to deck out the Tax Time Pig for Valentine’s Day – or Mardi Gras (February 12) or both!


    1. Andrew,

      The wonderful thing about Christmas is that, no matter what our circumstances, it always has something to offer. That’s rather like the world at large, now that I think of it!

      So nice to have you stop by. Here’s to a new year of wonderful celebrations!


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