The readings today feature women who were overjoyed at knowing they were to have their firstborn.
The first reading features a woman from the first years after the Israelites had settled into the Promised Land. At a place called Shiloh in the woodlands of Ephraim the tribes had built a wooden sanctuary for housing the Arc of the Covenant, and they had entrusted it to the priestly family of a man named Eli.
A man from Ramathaim named Elkanah used to come to Shiloh each year to offer a sacrifice before the Lord, and he would divide the sacrifice between his two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Now, Peninnah had given him sons, and she scorned Hannah who had remained childless.
One day Hannah had come alone into the sanctuary to plead with the Lord for a son; and the old priest Eli, seeing her lips moving silently accused her of being drunk. When she told him the truth, Eli promised her that by the following year she would have a son. When that son, little Samuel came, Hannah gave him to the Lord at Shiloh, and every year she visited him with a new little robe she had knitted for him.
Mary’s Magnificat of joy at bearing Jesus echoed the hymn Hannah offered up at Shiloh.
In my family, Joan, the first of my four sisters to be married, had to see her sisters all give birth while she remained childless. My happiest memory from those years came one evening after Joan had been married for seven years. Wearing winter red and blues, she stepped into our living room, clapping her hands, and calling out, “We’re going to have a baby, we’re going to have a baby!”