Advent Sings: Down to Up

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

The Lord brings death and makes alive;
    he brings down to the grave and raises up.
1 Samuel 2: 6 from the Song of Hannah

Hannah’s prayer describes the Lord in all His paradox of reversals: the strong are broken and those who stumble strengthened, the satisfied end up working for food and the hungry become filled, the barren woman bears children while the mother of many pines away, the poor and needy are lifted up to sit with princes.

He humbles and exalts–we have read the stories of how the Lord uses such reversals to instruct His people.

Yet nothing Hannah says is as radical and unprecedented as being brought down to the grave and then raised up, the Lord causing death and making alive.   This makes no sense.  Once in the grave, there is no escape.  Death cannot be reversed like the weak becoming strong, the hungry filled, the barren fertile, the poor enriched.

Hannah sings that this will indeed happen, just as the other reversals happened.  It would take centuries, but her prayer is fulfilled in the child born to Mary, who lives and dies and lives again in the greatest reversal of all.

There can be no greater mystery than a God who chooses to walk the earth as a man among the poor, the needy, the helpless, the sick, the blind, the lame, the wicked, the barren, the hungry, the weak.  There can be no greater reversal than God Himself dying–put away down into the grave– and then rising up, glorious, in the ultimate defeat of darkness and death.

Hannah already knew this as a barren woman made full through the blessing of the Lord, choosing to empty herself by giving her son back to God.
Mary knew this as a virgin overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, choosing to empty herself by bearing, raising and giving her Son back to the Father.

We know this too.   We are the weak, the hungry, the poor, the dying filled completely through the love and sacrifice of the Triune God, and so give ourselves up to Him.

From down to up.  It can be done.  And He has done it.

Advent Sings: No Other Rock

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2:2 from The Song of Hannah

In her song of prayer exalting God, Hannah gives over to His care her son for whom she had waited so long.  This is a mother whose unselfishness shames me every time I read her story and her own words. Centuries later, Hannah’s devotion to God inspires a young woman visited by an angel who tells her she will carry the Son of God in her womb.  Mary echoes much of Hannah’s prayer in her own Song, turning over her life, and eventually her own Son, to God’s care.

How could any mother manage to give over her precious child if God were not the Rock upon which she can stand, upon which she will depend for eternal stability, upon which she can fall and He will not break?   There is no other like this Rock.

We are reminded by Hannah’s faith and commitment to God, again by the angel visiting Mary, and in the words of  the host of angels on Christmas–do not be afraid.  The Rock, born that night as a soft and gentle baby, like every man’s beginning, still stands and will stand forevermore.   We can depend on it.  We can depend on Him as there is no other.

Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.
Isaiah 44:8