Even In The Midnight Hour

 Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

I. Midnight

It has been said that the hour of midnight is the darkest point of the evening.  It is when the peace sets in, the light of day seems to be long gone, the deepness of the darkness of night seems to have the ability to consume you. When you experience the stroke of midnight, out in the country, it is only the twinkling of the starlit sky that brings any sense of light.  The darkness holds all the things we cannot see and may not wish to see. But it allows the freedom of things to roam around in the darkness, good or bad. Or if you are experiencing midnight within the city, it is the bewitching hour as many things begin to shut down, the lights from the city drown out the stars, but businesses and restaurants begin to shut down. Also there are corners and areas that become enlivened, the things that veer on the side of what some say is the side of the forbidden, the scandalous, the things we don’t like to talk about or bring attention to.  The profane that lives in the darkness comes to life in the midst of the darkness of midnight.  It is the moment of the darkness of the night, that has the ability to encapsulate and surround us, because darkness is all that is there, in the deepness of the midnight hour.  The midnight is the point in the day where that portion of the earth is furthest from the sun, so it covers the world in darkness.    A deep, cloaking, thickness of blackness that surrounds our entire being. It is the darkest moment of the day.  Quite often our perception is that there is absolutely no comfort in the darkness of midnight, only our fear and our waiting for the dawn to arise.
In our society, we have been trained to believe that darkness is something to shun or fear.  As darkness surrounds us in the night, it is the darkness that holds all the things that go bump in the night.  Darkness holds all the evil, all the things we don’t like.  It is the darkness that as children, had our eyes play tricks on us, believing that there were monsters under our bed or in our closets, that the things that go bump in the night were nearby because darkness had crept in.  We always needed someone to chase out these things, or bring the warmth of a night light to get us through the darkest hour of midnight.  As we think of the dark, our hearts race and our hands get clammy, because, again, we feel as if there is nothing good that resides in the darkness.  There is even a song that states that the “freaks come out at night” – and no matter how you interpret the word “freak” there is shame, fear, and disgust that goes along with it.  So, we get night lights and lamps and things all to bring light into the situation because that light is what we know, the light is what we see, the light casts away all the negativity of the darkness.

 II. Our Own Personal Midnight

At the conclusion of this week, it almost seems like more of the same from last week.  We haven’t had the violence of an attempted insurrection, but the weight of what happened still looms over us as we process what happened, as we deal with the repercussions of what happened.  There are reports all over the news about what happened, how we should respond, how people are feeling in this moment.  We are preparing for the threat of possible other actions of violence that some are proclaiming will take place, we pray for the lives of those who have had to stay on watch at the Capitol building and places that have been under threat.  We have witnessed the second impeachment of the President of the United States from the House.  And we are on the brink of a transfer of power from one elected official to another, a bit of a limbo period, an event that has happened time and time again, with very little issues, and yet now there is concern on how to effectively do this peaceably and with respect for all those involved. Surely if we look at the structures of society around us, it would seem that our feet are standing on shaky ground, that the ground is not leveled beneath us, that the darkness is creeping in and surrounding us all.  It would seem, that we stand in the darkness of midnight.  That all the scariness that comes in the darkness of midnight is creeping into our lives, our society, and maybe even in our own homes. The darkness of midnight is that moment that holds all the things that make us uncomfortable, the moment that carries all the things that go bump in the night. The boogie man has come from underneath the bed, and is coming to get us before the dawn.  Or so it would seem.  It seems that we are solidly in the place of midnight, that the world around us has approached the midnight, and may even remain there for a while.  That the light of dawn is quite far off.  That we stand face to face with the darkest hour of the day, midnight, standing in the midst of darkness, not knowing where to go or what to do, not being able to see what is right in front of us.  Who do we call? What do we do?  There has got to be some parent or hero that will come and relieve us of the spooky things that reside among us in the darkness of midnight. Because we are presently standing in the reality of midnight.

 III. Is There Calm In The Midnight?

But what if the darkness of midnight was not the worst place to be?  What if darkness did not always hold the things that go bump in the night? What if the things that happen within the darkness of night, don’t hold the twists and the turns of evil that we think they do? There can be beauty within the night, there can be joy within the night, and there can even be redemption present within the night.  The night has held its own list of significant moments.  It was Jacob who wrestled with God in the midst of the night proclaiming that he would not let go until the Lord had blessed him, Ruth expressed her desire to be with Boaz within the darkness of midnight, Jesus was born within the darkness of midnight – promising salvation and a new day, as he came upon a midnight clear, the shepherds were told of the gift of Jesus in their fields at night – they were brought a sense of joy in the darkness of the midnight hour, the wise men ventured out to see Jesus in the darkness of midnight night as they followed a star to the promise of the new born King, Jesus calmed the sea in the darkness of midnight as the boat was tossed and turned and the disciples held on for dear life, Jesus came out and met the disciples as he walked on water in the darkness of the midnight assuring them that he was in control, Jesus prayed in the garden in the darkness of midnight as he offered his heart and vulnerability in humanness to his Holy Parent in heaven, and even the earth mimicked the darkness of midnight as the sun refused to shine, as our Lord hung his head and died for our sin – the process that led to our redemption in Christ’s death and resurrection. All this happened in the darkness of midnight.  And our scripture this morning is no different, for something happened within the darkness of midnight, it was not what one could mistake for the scary things that go bump in the night, but a transformational thing that changed the trajectory of what was happening in the life of Samuel and consequently the life of Eli and the rest of Israel.

 IV. From Judges To Monarchy

Our scripture finds itself in the history of Israel on the precipice of a time of great transition within the Kingdom of Israel.  We are at the end of the era of the period of judges, in which God, divinely appointed judges to be priest, prophet, war leader, and judgement of the law for the people of Israel.  God had always chosen the leaders of the people of Israel and spoke to them that they might effectively lead the people, this set them apart as a nation, as a people led by God.  But some in the people of Israel wanted to be like other nations and have a monarchy shaped by heredity rather than the appointment of God.  But that rushes slightly ahead of our scripture this morning.  It was also in this time believed that as long and the people of Israel and the leaders of Israel were faithful to God that the nation of Israel would be blessed and that the Lord would not cause their destruction.  As you see the progression of judges within the structure of recorded history there seems to be a journey that the people are on, in which as time progresses the people seem to fall further and further from God’s grace as both leaders and the people are recorded being disobedient to God at different times within the books of Joshua and Judges.  In this instance, the current leader Eli had been disobedient to God because he had ignored his own sons’ sin. He knew the things that his sons did were wrong, yet he let them remain in their wicked ways and remained silent and allowed their sin to continue. Sometimes we can’t sit in silence while injustice exists.  But in all of this, as Eli remained silent toward injustice. God was disappointed, and God was planning to send punishment to the land because the leader was disobedient and silent.  And we see that God is calling Samuel to proclaim the message, that God is doing a new thing, in a new way.

V. Samuel Is Called In The Night

And yet, Samuel, a young child, Hannah’s boy who she prayed for and offered back to God, lay in his bed in the midnight hour, asleep, in the darkest hour of the night. Samuel was lying apparently near the ark of the covenant. And in the still darkness of the night a voice called to him saying, “Samuel, Samuel.”  The voice came out in the stillness of night calling the young child who was learning underneath the teaching of Eli, the one who had been offered up to God because God had given him as a gift to his barren mother.  And yet this was a moment in which Samuel was not yet aware of who God was, so as he heard that voice calling to him, he was convinced that it must be Eli.  He heard a voice in the midnight hour and knew that the only other person it could be was his teacher Eli.  Who else could it be there was no one else in the temple? So he goes to Eli.  And Eli says it was not him, and tells him to go back and lie down.

But he heard something, he knew he did.  Was he losing his mind?  Were there things that really go bump in the night. Clearly it was nothing.  And yet he lays down again and the voice calls to him again, “Samuel, Samuel.”  At this point his heart probably begins race, and sweat has made his hands clammy, and fear rises within him, because the last time it wasn’t Eli, but it must be Eli because there is no one else in the temple, and if there is someone in there then he has to admit that there are actual things that go bump in the night. Or maybe he was losing his mind, how could someone be calling him? It must be Eli, it just has to be Eli.

So Samuel runs to Eli again, “Here I am, You called me.” But Eli had not called him.  Go back and lie down. And Samuel returns to lie down.  And yet he is called once more in the stillness and darkness of the night.  He is supposed to be resting and yet this voice calls to him in the midst of the night, the darkness, the peaceful moment of the deep, encapsulating black of the midnight hour.  How many times must this happen, why is woken again?  Surely he cannot admit that the monsters under the bed are coming to get him, so he goes to Eli once more.  Finally, Eli realizes that it is likely the voice of the Lord speaking to the boy.  This is a major point of reckoning because at this time period God did not speak to many people and Eli was designated as that one.  So if the Lord was speaking to Samuel, Eli had to humble himself admit his loss in status and accept the fact that God was likely not very pleased with him because the Lord was no longer talking to him, but the Lord reached out and spoke to Samuel the boy in his care.  Sometimes we have to be wise enough to humble ourselves and move out of the way, if we are standing in the way of the new way that God is moving and leading.  This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but sometimes we have to move aside and let God move. So Eli tells the boy, if he hears the voice again to reply, “Speak Lord, For your servant is listening.”

So the boy Samuel returns to sleep, and yet in the deepness of the dark of the midnight hour, once again, the voice calls to him and Samuel replies, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

 VI. Lessons Learned

There are a couple things that we must take note of in the story. The first is that God called out to Samuel when before Samuel even knew God.  This shows us that God knew us before we even know ourselves and that God reaches out to us extending grace and salvation even before we ae aware of God.  How many of us would be out of luck had not God came and pulled us out of our mess?  How might our lives be worse off had God not chosen us and entered into our lives. We as people of God take heart in the fact that God chose us as God’s people and offered us salvation despite ourselves.  God reached out to us and loved us – for what reason, I’m not sure but I’m so glad that God loved us.  Loved us enough to offer himself up as a living sacrifice that we might be one with God.

Secondly, we must take note that God reached out to the Samuel, a young boy, someone who would have been considered part of the lowly, someone who was a child but also not the priest but the servant of the priest, the budding apprentice of the priest.  In this moment, God was challenging the societal structure of society, saying that God can call, reach out, and speak to anyone, even those that we least expect.  That even the life-giving transformation of the world can be in the hands of a child, a young man.  God is not bound by the box that society tries to place on God.  This shows us what we can find in our social principles that all human beings, even children are of worth and should be treated as such within the bounds of church and society.  So we nurture our children, we work for their benefit, and we encourage them to be agents of change in the world that are transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Because even Samuel heard from God, and even Samuel was used by God to do miraculous things.

Finally, in this moment we see that in the midst of the night, in the stillness of the darkness God called out to Samuel.  God was doing knew things, transforming the world, and called out to Samuel that he might begin doing the work of the Lord. Samuel was called to inform Eli of God’s displeasure with his silence in the midst of his son’s wrongdoing. But this also marked the beginning of Samuel’s ministry, where he was dedicated to doing the will of God and being the mouthpiece for the Lord.  He would be the judge that ushered in the new era of the monarchy.  In this moment of the deep darkness of the midnight hour, God called out his name.  And he replied, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” This only shows us that in the midst of the darkness we are experiencing, in the midst of all the things around us that are going bump in the night, the rise of evil and injustice that seems to be present in the midst of what seems to be our present societal and personal darkness, we must wait and listen. Because God is moving and doing a new thing and God is calling out all of our names, but we have to wait and listen.  Listen and move.  But we must open our ears and be ready for what God is saying, in the right now, in this moment.  Because in this moment, in this time there is a prophetic word from the Lord. We just have open your eyes and ears and be ready when the voice of the Lord calls upon us. Ready to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Even in the Midnight Hour.


In the stillness and quietness of the midnight hour – “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

In the midst of the suffocating darkness of sorrow – “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

In the midst of the things that go bump in the night – “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

In the chaotic times that make us feel like we are deep in the midnight hour and the dawn is extremely far off  – ­“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”