1 Samuel 2: 1-10, Luke 1: 46 b -55
Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. Say her name. In the streets of our cities, we hear demonstrations full of marchers who chant in rhythm to ‘say her name’. In the name of justice, they are crying out to all to say the names.
Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. Say her name. Say the name of all women who have succumbed to the violence that engulfs them. During this season of Advent, as prayers are brought forth on behalf of so many who need them.
In 1 Samuel chapter 2, we see Hannah’s beautiful prayer. Hannah is a woman who did not have children, but she prayed to God for a son. She promised to dedicate her life and the life of a child given to her to the Lord’s work.
Her prayers were answered with the birth of Samuel. Hannah praises the Lord by saying, “There is no Holy one like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” She gives all praises to the Lord. A Lord who can bring us through the painful times of wickedness is a Lord who will be there for us in joy also.
Remember, that after the pain of what feels like wickedness, comes the fulfilment of the birth. Jesus said we would have birth pangs. We could categorize those birth pangs as the images in the Old Testament of devastating fires, floods, pestilence, and societal violence.
In recent times, I have been struck by the presence of large consuming fires on the west coast, unrelenting floods on the southern boarders and the illusive pestilence of COVID throughout our nation in addition to ongoing violence among the people.
It is almost as though those biblical historic events of fire, flood and pestilence are always there to challenge our resolve and our steadfastness. Not all of us get through it. We lose friends and dear ones. But those events are not all consuming of each and every one of us. These events are not new to humanity. Maintain your tenacity through a grounding in faith in God. Faith is something bigger than us.
Hannah’s prayer said, “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail.”
We need to remember that the wickedness of the terrorism is in many places. We must “Pray without Ceasing”. Remember to pray, pray, and pray and when you finish, pray some more. Hannah was overwhelmed with sheer gratitude.
In Samuel, we see it said that “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.” His words have exalted this woman and brings low the people who would dare to question what she did.
With so many unnamed women within our scriptures, it is spectacular that we have the name Hannah from whom to draw spiritual sustainability. From Hannah, we see the juxtaposition of the favorable and the unfavorable aspects of our lives identified through her prayer. We see both humility and exaltation. We see possibilities and potential against all odds that may thwart our mobility. We see acceptance that does not permit us to stumble over rejection. Hannah shows us how to pray through it all. Her prayer shows us how to shake it off. It is mere dust on our feet (Mark 6:11).
Hannah delights in the presence of God and leads us to be able to triumph over enemies and those challenges that may hold us back. There is a way for struggling women to gain renewed strength. It is their faith in a God that is bigger than all else.
It took a woman’s faith to break a jar that contained the expensive oil to wash the feet of Jesus (John 12:3). This woman’s action reverberates beyond the pages of the text, and much more than a jar breaking. Her witness suggests the breaking of inequality, the breaking of injustice, the breaking of social barriers and most of all the breaking of old traditions. Mary shows how to adapt anew to a society in which divisions—created by religion, class, social and patriarchal order—are abolished while demonstrating that all are equal in Christ Jesus.
Not only do we have the name Hannah, but we also have Mary, mother of Jesus. Our Christian faith is based on the faith that Mary had in God to bring God’s child Jesus to us. We could say that this is all about Mary. We could say that Christmas Day is the ultimate of Mother’s Day that we celebrate. A young woman was chosen to bring forth the Child of God. Yet, even with this miraculous birth, we know that the world may not be as we would like it to be.
Just as Hannah did, Mary sings with Joy and we are to listen with Joy. Mary, mother of Jesus, says that her spirit rejoices in God who is her Savior. Our spirits are also to rejoice with God who is our Savior.
Mother Mary says that God looked with favor on her lowliness as God’s Servant and that all generations will call her blessed as we continue to do during our time of Advent. Mother Mary reminds us that God made a promise to the ancestors of Jesus going back even beyond Abraham and to the descendants of Abraham forever and ever.
A popular song, “Mary Did You Know,” has 17 questions for Mary. Wouldn’t it be great to have had a conversation with Mary before the birth of Jesus? Mary, how much did you truly understand? We hear the declaration of Mary, mother of Jesus as conveyed through Luke 1.
We often hear the stories of a family, on their way to the hospital. The baby is born along the highway. This is one of the images that may to come to mind as we read about the travels of Joseph and Mary during her pregnancy. Joseph and Mary had probably been in Bethlehem for some days before the actual birth of Jesus.
You will remember that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, to be counted in the census as dictated by King Herod. Today we might ask , did Joseph and Mary have time to fill out their census form? Did they have time to put their absentee election ballot in the drop box? If we are truly in anticipation of a second coming of the Christ Child in our Matthew 25 view of the world, we may ask such questions. Today, we might ask, is the Christ Child waiting to be re-born at the southern borders of the United States and will we accept that child as our God incarnate?
So. Let’s all say their names. Say all their names. Say the names of the many strong women who follow their faith and bring God’s dominion into the world. Amen
Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory was ordained by Boston Presbytery in 1976 during the height of the racial school bussing crises in that city. In retirement, she is serving as part-time supply pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church, in Oxon Hill, MD. Previously, Rev. Giddings Ivory served as the Programme Director for Public Witness and Global Advocacy of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland, Director of the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Associate for Mission and Ecumenical Affairs with National Capital Presbytery, Director of the Albany Office of the New York State Council of Churches for Advocacy, and Supply Pastor of the Gloucester Memorial Presbyterian Church of Boston Presbytery.