The story of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, is the foundation of this week’s OT and response (instead of the usual Psalm). 1st Samuel tells the story of Hannah’s inability to conceive a child and the shame, sadness, and isolation she feels in the society in which she lives. For Hannah, as a woman living around 1000 BCE, having children (particularly a son) was seen as her purpose. It seems terribly unfair and sexist now, of course, but Hannah’s infertility was not just sad for her, it made her the butt of jokes and less than those around her with children.
We are, as a world, perhaps, waking up the knowledge that there are many people who have been forced to live in isolation; people who are, more and more, speaking out and finding support. Women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted, or bullied by men, particularly in the workplace, are finding their voice. Gay and lesbian persons have received much deserved attention and allegiance over the past few years. Issues of racism are beginning more and more to come to the fore, as are people who have been marginalized because of race, ethnic background, or nationality. But we realize we have a long way to go, as racism is ever present, and rising nationalism makes immigrants and undocumented workers live in a place of fear.
We live, in our culture, as we do in the light of God, however, in that time of “now but not yet” that Paul so often speaks of. Hannah, in Samuel, is freed from her childlessness by the providence of God and brings Samuel forth into the world. Her sadness and isolation turn to joy and acceptance. But the culture around her has not changed. She has changed, by God breaking into her life, and her response is to praise God.
We live in the shadow of God’s redemption grace because of Jesus Christ. But our world is far from perfect as injustice, violence, and inhumanity rumble merrily along. God’s inbreaking is what changes things, God’s coming into the world. He has come in saving love through Jesus Christ. Now, we must allow our awareness of all that God has done to change us and, slowly but surely, change the world. But only when Christ comes again will all things be made new.