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Sermons/Devotional Words are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service.
December 8, 2021
1 Samuel 2:1-10Worship Service Video Devotional Word Audio Devotional Word Text
The Bible is filled with prayers of praise by men and women alike. The one we hear tonight was prayed by Hannah and it comes from a place rooted in her longing to have a baby. She was an ordinary woman, one of two wives married to a man named Elkanah. As happens in many biblical stories, the other wife bore many children, but Hannah was barren.
The entire family went each year to the temple at Shiloh to make sacrifices to God. Elkanah, the husband, gave portions of the sacrifice to the other wife and to all her children. But he gave a double portion to Hannah because he loved her.
Instead of being compassionate, though, the other wife provoked Hannah and irritated her year after year, to the point that she could only weep. Elkanah tried to comfort her, but she was inconsolable.
One year, Hannah was so distressed that she went into the temple after a meal and went before God, crying as she asked God to remember her – saying that if God gave her a son, she would dedicate him to God.
The priest who witnessed this prayer was Eli, and he scorned her at first – he thought she was drunk because she was so emotional. But she stood up for herself and he realized his mistake. And as she left, he wished Hannah peace and blessed her, and asked that God would grant the petition she made.
God did remember Hannah, and in due time she conceived and bore a son, whom she named Samuel. Hannah honored the vow she made and dedicated him to God. And what we read tonight is the prayer she prayed as she entrusted Samuel to Eli.
This is a prayer that focuses on God’s actions. She gives thanks for what God has done in the past, and expresses absolute confidence that God will continue to act in the future. Hannah’s song became an anthem of strength for anyone and everyone experiencing despair. And we hear echoes of it in other prayers in Israel’s history.
We know that God doesn’t always answer prayers by giving us what we most long for. What we do know is that God has promised to meet us in our prayers, even when they’re ones of lament.
And that’s where God met Hannah – God met her in her torment and stayed in it with her. God’s very nature is to be with us not only in the brightest, happiest moments of our lives but also in the most difficult ones.
In another couple of days, we’ll be halfway through Advent, the season of remembering that through Jesus’ birth, God came to us. That God entered into our world and turned it upside down. Our world was suffering then and it still is today.
And God still meets us in it.
As we look toward the celebration of Christ’s birth, toward the promise that it brings, and hoping – even longing – for an end to everyone’s suffering, we remember that even as we wait, God meets us in our hardest moments, our turmoil, our grief – and stays there with us. Amen.