“Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.’”

Hannah’s Prayer, 1 Samuel 2:5 (NRSV)

Miraculous Birth

Perhaps Hannah was thinking of all those feasts where she had but one plate and Peninah had many. Peninah had the full blessings their culture recognized for women—though she was the second wife, she had first position in their home, she was fertile and brought forth many healthy, sturdy children to work their land and be the pride of their father, and the strength of her youth augured a glowing future. Her children would inherit, so she would always have a home.

Hannah’s future, on the other hand, grew dimmer with each childless year passing by. For according to the custom of her time, she would likely become a homeless widow one day, prevailing on the kindness of her community for bread and shelter.

But in one masterful stroke, God completely changed the trajectory of Hannah’s life. Now it was she who would know a bright future, have a home, and even the promise of grandchildren one day. In the same way, God reverses the fortunes of every repentant sinner who comes to the Lord in faith.

Zechariah also saw the magnificence of God’s timing in fulfilling the promise of salvation: the marvelous birth of their son who would come in the spirit of Elijah to proclaim Messiah, and the miraculous birth of Jesus Who in turn would bring forth divine new birth, a Body of whom Christ is the Head.

Christmas Carol

This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens ev’ry load.

“Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming” German carol (15th century)


O Lord, Your promised mercy has given us new birth into eternal life. Help us to grow up in every way into Jesus Who is our Head, knit us together as a whole Body, building ourselves up in love, and to enjoy Your blessing. (Ephesians 4:14-16)

“Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors.”

Zechariah’s Prophecy, Luke 1:72 (NRSV)
By Unknown medieval painter in Cyprus – Andreas Stylianou und Judith A. Stylienou: The Painted Churches of Cyprus. Trigraph, London 1985, Public Domain

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