Then Hannah prayed:
My heart rejoices in the Lord.
My strength rises up in the Lord!
My mouth mocks my enemies
because I rejoice in your deliverance.
No one is holy like the Lord—
no, no one except you!
There is no rock like our God!
Don’t go on and on, talking so proudly,
spouting arrogance from your mouth,
because the Lord is the God who knows,
and he weighs every act.
The bows of mighty warriors are shattered,
but those who were stumbling now dress themselves in power!
Those who were filled full now sell themselves for bread,
but the ones who were starving are now fat from food!
The woman who was barren has birthed seven children,
but the mother with many sons has lost them all!
He brings death, gives life,
takes down to the grave, and raises up!
He makes poor, gives wealth,
brings low, but also lifts up high!
God raises the poor from the dust,
lifts up the needy from the garbage pile.
God sits them with officials,
gives them the seat of honor!
The pillars of the earth belong to the Lord;
he set the world on top of them!
God guards the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked die in darkness
because no one succeeds by strength alone.
His enemies are terrified!
God thunders against them from heaven!
He judges the far corners of the earth!
May God give strength to his king
and raise high the strength of his anointed one. (CEB)
This is the song of Hannah, a woman unable to conceive children and then offered a heartfelt petition to God for a child. Her prayer was answered. A thousand years later, Mary took this same song, reworked it, and personalized it, to voice and sing her own praise to God. (Luke 1:46-55)
Hannah dared to hope. It might seem from the perspective of one who has never struggled with being childless that offering a prayer for children is easy. However, when hope has been dashed and all seems impossible, putting oneself out there to ask, even to beg, is downright hard. In a fear of having what little hope remains be crushed, it is far easier to stay away from God and keep the prayers to oneself.
Hannah actively sought divine help and risked praying and emoting. The Lord heard. Hannah’s weeping turned to singing. And, like Mary’s Magnificat, Hannah quickly moved from her own experience to the experiences of people everywhere. In short, Hannah focused on the God of the impossible and the divine accessibility which exists when we become vulnerable and put ourselves out there in risky hope.
The great reversal of Hannah’s condition from barren to fertile gives hope for the weak to become strong, the hungry to be filled, and the lost to be found. In a world in which God is Sovereign, nothing needs to stay the same – nothing is carved in stone.
Since no part of our existence as humans is outside the purview of God, there is always the possibility of change, of a reversal of fortunes.
The underdog has a champion with God. The misfits, the exploited, and the downtrodden – those who cannot lift themselves or pull themselves up by their bootstraps – are precisely the persons whom the Lord raises up. God’s providential care shall oversee them, and justice will be dispensed with perfect equity.
It is one thing to hope; it is another thing altogether in daring to hope against all odds and while others poo-poo your dreams. Godly hope is not wishful thinking but a confident expectation that God will show up and be gracious, merciful, and kind.
The place of crying and weeping is important because it is our tears which find a better way. Anyone can offer cheap praise but the person who sits with their sadness and feels the heart-wrenching agony of a hope unfulfilled is the one who is able to give genuine praise and to sing with authenticity. Since their hope was planted and watered with tears, their joy in the harvest is abundant and plenteous.
As we move to the expectant close of Advent and realize the Christmas hope fulfilled, allow the daring hope of Mary and Hannah to conceive a fresh hope in your own life so that you will give birth to new life.
God of hope, in these times of change, helplessness, and uncertainty give us courage to overcome our fears, and help us to build a future in which all may prosper and share together, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.