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Samuel was a key figure in the history of the Israelites. He played the role of the guardian of their sacred traditions. His birth in some ways mirrors the birth of Jesus in that it was a miraculous gift of God. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, for many years had been barren. But Hannah prayed ardently to the Lord, “If you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, and give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the Lord for as long as he lives” (see 1 Sam 1:9-11).
Hannah kept her vow, dedicating the child in the Temple. And she worshiped the Lord with a hymn reminiscent of Mary’s Magnificat:
My heart exalts in the Lord.
There is no Holy One like the Lord.
He raises the needy from the dust.
From the ash heap he lifts up the poor.
To seat them with nobles.
He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones.
When God chooses a king from among the eight sons of Jesse of Bethlehem, the Lord sends Samuel to anoint the new king. Jesse presents each of his sons in turn. But the one chosen by God is the one no one expected: the youngest son, David. And the Lord says to Samuel freeing words we need to meditate on: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
As a young man, Samuel served as a minister to Eli. One night while as Samuel slept in the Temple, the Lord called him. Samuel arose thinking his master was summoning him. But Eli realized what was happening, and told him how to reply. The third time God called, Samuel answered, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9). We embrace that same obedience and loving surrender of Samuel as we make our way to Christ’s manger.
[The Aleteia community is joining the journey of an Old Testament pilgrim each day this Advent, as they lead us to the Christ Child in this holy season. Find the daily reflections here.]