Then Hannah prayed:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord!
The Lord has made me strong.
Now I have an answer for my enemies;
I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
“Stop acting so proud and haughty!
Don’t speak with such arrogance!
For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done;
he will judge your actions.
The bow of the mighty is now broken,
and those who stumbled are now strong.
Those who were well fed are now starving,
and those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children,
and the woman with many children wastes away.
The Lord gives both death and life;
he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
and he has set the world in order.
“He will protect his faithful ones,
but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone.
Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
he increases the strength of his anointed one.” (New Living Translation)
This is the song of Hannah, a woman unable to conceive children. She offered a heartfelt petition to God for a child. Hannah’s prayer was answered. A thousand years later, Mary, the mother of Jesus, 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 the 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. 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 person to be found. In a world where God is the 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; it is 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. Yet, 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 Christians anticipate the season of Advent, 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.