Hannah and Mary: Having the faith to let go… by Audrey Francis

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

I was shopping at Coles yesterday and noticed that they already have Easter hot cross buns on sale. Christmas has only been over for week, and we are already being rushed away from it. But it is better to ponder Christmas a little longer. Audrey Francis, a student at Vose Seminary who has contributed to this blog before, helps us to do so in this message she preached on Sunday 27 Dec 2015 at Rockingham Uniting Church.  It is built around 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 and Luke 2: 41-52, comparing the sacrifice made by Samuel’s mother Hannah, and Jesus’ mother Mary. It asks what they might teach us about the challenge to let go. I hope you find it helpful.

This morning, the Lectionary is asking us to take a step forward in the life of Jesus to when he was 12 years old.

It seems too soon, as I wanted to stay awhile at the manger and wait for the coming of the wise men. However, tradition dictates and we are in the Year of Luke, who does not tell us about the wise men or the flight into Egypt. This leads me to wonder how and for what reason did the writers of the Gospels decide what to include and what to leave out? Luke wrote to record history with the purpose of convincing, converting and spiritually building up his readers.

The story of the birth of Jesus in Luke is surrounded with the wonder of the story of Elizabeth and Zachariah and the excepted arrival of John; the record of dreams and visitations of angels to Mary and Joseph to assure them of God’s hand in their lives; the prophesy of Anna and Simeon when the baby was presented in the temple.. There are unique songs and poems embracing the wonder of the birth of Jesus. To me, it seems to build a beautiful backdrop to a devout Jewish family caring for each other.

The reading in Samuel introduces us to Hannah and her son Samuel, a precious child for whom she waited a long time. One commentary suggests that there are clear comparisons between the story of Mary and Jesus and that of Hannah and her son, Samuel: the pure motive of the mother in each case, as she gives her son to the service of God, and the interaction of the son with those in authority. Samuel, like Jesus, later in his story, will have to oppose a corrupt priesthood. The story of Samuel’s boyhood at the sanctuary includes a particularly poignant reference to Hannah’s personal sacrifice. Every year she makes a little robe for him. The reader can picture Hannah sewing all her love for her little boy into this garment. The little robe is also symbolic of Samuel’s growth in faith and knowledge. He has not begun with all the wisdom and understanding he needs for God’s work. He must learn.

The very words of verse 26 remind us again of the link between Samuel’s story and that of Jesus. Luke’s faithful use of Samuel’s story to frame his picture of the boyhood of Jesus says clearly that the boy Jesus also needed to grow in his understanding of God.

So we return to the Gospel and enter the life of Mary and Joseph and the boy Jesus, now 12 years old. How did this one episode survive? It has been suggested that Mary, herself, told it to the writer of Luke’s Gospel, which underlines the immense significance of it both as a family memory and also as a sign of what was to come.

Mary and Joseph, devout Jews, had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover along with many, many other people. I wonder how many of their children were with them because, let us not forget, whilst Jesus was the firstborn, there were other children born to Mary and Joseph. It was normal practice for travellers to form groups, the men together, the women together and the children of a responsible age to walk together. They would regroup as families in the evening. The fact that Mary and Joseph did not seem to miss Jesus until they had already made a day’s journey was not a sign of negligence. In fact, I suggest that, to discover that he was missing is every parent’s nightmare.

When they did find him in the temple, their relief must have been great. Mary’s reaction was so human. “Child, you have treated us like this? Look your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety”. There is no doubt in my mind that both Mary and Joseph would have been so relieved and yet we find here recorded words of reproach. I wonder have those of you with families, like me, experienced a similar situation and responded in a similar way?

It is Jesus’ response, which shows a maturity, which they, and we, might consider beyond his years. “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” He reminds his parents of relationship, that with his human father and that with God, his father.

The next year, at the same festival, Jesus would celebrate his Bar Mitzvah and be recognised as having the rights of a fully grown man. While the bar mitzvah ceremony is a milestone life-cycle event in the life of a Jewish boy and is the culmination of years of study, it is actually not the end of a boy’s Jewish education. It simply marks the beginning of a lifetime of Jewish learning, study and participation in the Jewish community.

Are we witnessing a moment of letting go? Jesus letting go of the protected life he would have had as a child and accepting his need of preparation for what was to come. Mary and Joseph needing to begin letting go of their son so that he may pursue his Father, God’s will. And all this is played out in the physical environment of the temple. This moment changed their family relationships.

Later, when we read of Mary being with Jesus at the Marriage at Cana, she steps back and acknowledges her son’s leadership and spiritual role in the community. Again when Mary and Jesus’ brothers visit Jesus, concerned for his welfare, he says, “Who is my Mother and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”.

One of the most poignant moments of relationship of son to mother takes place at the cross when Jesus, in the midst of his suffering, sees his mother there and gently releases her into the care of his beloved disciple, John – a letting go.

“Letting go” is one of the most difficult aspects of life and, yet, it can be a moment of great release and return to health. On this last Sunday of this year, it is perhaps a good moment to consider what we may need to let go of before entering a New Year.

Like Mary, we may be overly protective of our children when they are young, or even adult, holding them back from discovering what life has in store for them.

We may be so established in a routine that we leave no space for new ventures, discovering gifts that we had never before recognised within ourselves.

God may be asking us to undertake service which requires us to re-think our attitudes and let go of long-held beliefs.

We may be holding so tightly to what we believe is our security, at the same time missing out on freedom of expression.

Letting go is never easy. Let us be like Jesus, as a boy in the temple, and ask as we enter the year 2016, “What is God asking of me and what do I need to let go of to respond to his call?” By “letting go” we may well commence a journey of personal discovery greater than we ever imagined possible.











One Comment

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful message.

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