I’m taking two classes right now. In one we are studying 1&2 Samuel and the other, Luke-Acts. One from the Old and one from the New Testament.
On the first pages of both of these books, one thing you notice when you start reading is that two women have prominent roles as the stories get underway.
On the first pages of Samuel, we find Hannah.
And on the first pages of Luke, we find Mary.
And it turns out that they are proclaiming similar messages. Both have words of hope for the hopeless.
When you’re hopeless, it’s hard to imagine something new, because hopelessness imprisons imagination.
A starving mother can’t conceive how she will feed herself and her baby.
A man drowning in debt and poverty is pushed down lower and lower.
A woman trapped in an abusiveness marriage doesn’t see a way out.
A man unemployed for over a year, doubts that a better resume will make a difference.
A student, the first in her family to attend college, is uncertain she will graduate because she can’t afford to buy textbooks.
A daughter cannot bring herself to trust her lying mother again.
Hopelessness imagines that nothing new can come or will come – or that God will make it come.
What we find in these two songs from Mary and Hannah are women who dared to hope,
but theirs is not some polite, spiritualized hope
and it’s not some cutesy hope
and it’s not some pie-in-the-sky hope.
They boldly proclaimed that there’s a real reason to hope.
Sometimes, in this chaotic world, it’s hard to believe two ancient women might know what they were talking about, but those kinds of doubts didn’t stop them from saying it.
These are women breaking free from hopelessness, bursting forth with new songs.
Both of them were in situations of political chaos. And into the chaos, they sang politically-incorrect messages about the ache of hunger, the dusty nature of poor lives, the hopelessness of existence in the ash heaps.
And somehow, although they were unlikely candidates for hope, their songs soared above the chaos and challenged others who were hopeless to look up and imagine.
As women at the bottom of the societal pyramid of their day, they defiantly attested to hope far greater than the false control, power, domination, and greediness that put them there.
They proclaimed a radical message that said God is reversing the poor and the rich, the weak and the strong, the humble and the proud.
So, what made them sing such valiant songs? Go read these beautiful stories of women who spoke out of their days into ours. 1 Samuel 1 and 2 and Luke 1 and 2.
For Hannah and Mary, hope was fueled by gratitude to God because of what they believed to be true.
Hannah believed in a God who owns the foundations of the earth. Mary believed that the same God acts in history, through Abraham and his descendants, fulfilling promises that bless all the people of the earth.
Hannah and Mary said to hopeless people– this is the God we believe in. And we believe it matters here and now.
Do we have the imagination to believe that what they sang and prayed was true?
Do we believe there’s room for another new song?