Readings: 1 Samuel 1:20-26 and Colossians 3:12-17
Elkanah and Hannah lived in the Samarian hills north of Jerusalem. Hannah had no children - she longed for a child, but the years passed and she remained childless.
The family went every year to Shiloh. Shiloh was a very holy place. It was where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, the box in which Moses had placed the ten commandments, after the Israelites had settled in the promised land.
Elkanah and his family went there to worship God and to present sacrifices. He distributed the sacrifices among his family, but he always gave Hannah a double portion, because he loved her very much and could see that she was unhappy.
One year, she was deeply distressed and wept as she prayed to the Lord. She made a promise to God, that if she had a son, she would dedicate him to God.
In our first reading we hear that Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, and she called him Samuel.
Hannah kept Samuel at home for a short while and then, when he was still very young, she took him to Shiloh and made a very generous sacrificial meal to say thank you to God for her Son.
She said, “My heart exults in the Lord, my strength is exalted in my God.”
Eli, the priest, could hardly believe the change in her, from being distressed, to being so joyful.
Hannah left Samuel with Eli, to live at Shiloh, and to be brought up as a holy man.
It was a great personal sacrifice for Hannah, but she made it out of love for God. It must have been hard for her, but she trusted in God. Samuel was destined for a great task. God spoke to him directly and he became a very important religious leader.
In 1 Samuel 3 we read that “As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”
I wonder whether one of the children might tell me what they think this means - that God let none of his words fall to the ground.
That lovely expression makes us wonder how many of our words are not helpful and fall to the ground.
Samuel was led by God to anoint the first king of Israel, King Saul. Later he anointed King David to succeed Saul.
When Samuel died, we read in chapter 25 that “all Israel assembled and mourned for him”.
When Hannah dedicated Samuel to God, she could not have imagined what he would become and how important he would be as a leader of God’s people.
When we read this story about a woman’s longing for a son, and her love for God, it seems a far cry from our modern world.
Yet Christian parents still bring children to Church as young children to be dedicated to God. We now take responsibility for bringing up our children and helping them to know God’s love. As Paul tells the Colossians in our second reading - “You are the people of God”.
Hannah decided her son would be brought up as a priest.
What about us? For the youngsters among us today, do you or your parents have some idea of what you hope to do or become in your life?
And now a question for the children - what do you want to be when you grow up?
I wanted to drive a lorry and used to sit in the garden using my bicycle wheel as a large steering wheel. I ended up being a transport scientist, and did once drive a train, but not a lorry.
For those who can look back on their lives, do you remember if you or your parents had some hopes of what you would do or become?
A question to the adults what memories do you have of the hopes you or your parents had for you.
I have had quite a think about my parents and what they wanted for me. They always helped me to become the best I could be. As I look back on that experience, and ponder their motives, I believe they just wanted me to be happy. And I was. And I think that probably that’s what all good parents want for their children - that they should be happy in whatever they do, or become.
And another question to the children. What do you think will make you happy in your life as you grow up?
I have thought about this too. As I grew up and became independent, my parents encouraged me, supported me and, most of all, loved me. And I think that was the most important thing to me in growing up.
In our second reading, we hear that God loved us and chose us for his own. Paul tells us how we should live to honour God, and I think when we follow this teaching, we honour our parents too. Samuel allowed God to use him for great purposes, and by doing that, he honoured his parents too.
If we are kind and compassionate to others, if we act with humility and patience with all we meet, if we are tolerant and forgiving, and above all, if we demonstrate love, then we will be better people. Better children, better parents, better grandparents.
Paul tells us to teach and instruct one another with all wisdom. So today we say thank you to all our parents for their wisdom, their love, for all they have taught us, and especially for helping us to know that God loves us.