In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time.”
When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, a measure of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” She left him there for the Lord.
The Lord has convicted my heart this morning. There have been times, in my selfishness, when I have complained about the sacrifices I have had to make for my children. In fact, there have been times when, to combat their own selfishness, I have reminded them of my sacrifices. Am I not willing to sacrifice for love? My children are my greatest gifts – the two persons I treasure most in this world – but how willing am I, though I know it would be in everyone’s best interests, to offer them back to God? How willing am I to sacrifice my desire to be close to them so that they might be closer to Him?
Hannah, in her astounding trust, is teaching me this morning about the necessary companionship between prayer and sacrifice. She offered a lifetime of prayer to God, continuing on when most others would have long since given up the cause. God, in His infinite knowledge, providence, and goodness, answers her prayer when she is of an age that clearly denotes to the world that her pregnancy is a miracle. She receives her baby boy as such and gives him a name meaning “God has heard”. She then – and this is the real kicker – physically gives her son to the house of God as her sacrifice and God’s gift to the kingdom when he is still quite young.
Is any of this sounding familiar in the context of the season we’re in? Hannah received a miracle birth just as Mary did. Her trust in God and willingness to sacrifice everything into His hands is a disposition of our Holy Mother. In fact, they both wrote songs to God in praise of all He is.
These women reframe for me the true meaning of family. My children (and others) have been entrusted to me for a time in this life, but God intends for me to turn them back over to Him – kind of like regifting, but in the most beautiful sort of way. Family, then, includes all who we might receive from God, who are entrusted to us, to be ultimately placed under the protective hand of our Father. The gift is in my prayer for my loved ones, and the sacrifice is in giving them back to He who delivered them to me.
My prayer must open in me a willingness to yield to His plan.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says, “Whoever surrenders unconditionally to the Lord will be chosen by Him as an instrument for building His kingdom.” Hannah surrendered her son who went on to have a profound impact in building God’s kingdom. Mary surrendered the trajectory of her life, giving birth to a man who was God incarnate, establishing the true kingdom of God. Their surrender, their sacrifices defined their impact, changing the course of history and resonating into eternity.
Let us pray:
Father, I can feel the tightness of my grasp on those I hold dear. I ask you to lay Your trustworthy hands on mine. Reassure me, Lord, that You only will the good and that I can feel secure in releasing them unto You. Amen.