Weirdest. Mother’s Day. Ever.
I’m pretty sure we’ll be saying that about every celebration until this pandemic is under control. Every event, every holiday, will take on new meaning. But sometimes that’s a good thing. I don’t normally get to spend time with my mom anyway since Mother’s Day SOMEHOW always ends up on a Sunday, but this one in particular has made me miss my mom even more. I think being sheltered in place has helped me to appreciate family and friends in a new way. Hearing from many of you, I don’t think I’m alone in that. Whether it’s your biological mom or someone who’s been a mom to you your entire life, whether your mom lives close by or far away, or whether your mom is alive or has passed on, we seem to be thinking of them more often. Maybe it’s because we have more time on our hands to reflect, but at least part of it is the risk we all have of contracting the virus and the chance, however small, of actually dying from it. Plus, many of our moms are in the high-risk category and that alone almost forces us to reflect on what’s really important in our lives. Like our moms.
Where would we be without our moms?
Nowhere. Even if you didn’t have the best mom in the world, you could at least say one thing – she brought me into this world. That alone should be an accomplishment worthy of recognition. Giving life to a child, enduring not only labor but the nine months leading up to it is a sacrifice we don’t often appreciate as much as we should. Now the truth is, most of us DO believe we have the best mom in the world or at least right up there in the top 10. Just for putting up with me alone, I know my mom deserves top 5 status. I look back now and wonder how in the world my mom didn’t just strangle me on a daily basis. I guess I can credit that to a mother’s love. It seems most moms have a never-ending wellspring of the stuff, a love that goes beyond any other that exists. In that way, our love for our children mirrors God’s love for us. It’s the strongest kind of love there is.
If you look in the Bible you see so many examples of this type of motherly love.
In Genesis we see Jochebed, the mother of Moses not only giving up her child for the chance to let him live, but then purposely making herself a servant in the princess’ household so she could be with him. Even though it meant she would likely live a life of poverty, Naomi released her two daughters-in-law from their duty to her when her sons died tragically. She loved them that much, and knew their best chance was to abandon her and she wanted what was best for their lives over her own. Then there’s the story about the woman in King Solomon’s court. Her child was stolen from her by a jealous and bitter woman whose own baby passed away in the night. Without a clear way to tell who was lying, King Solomon tried something tricky and offered to settle their dispute by sacrificing the child so that neither one could have him. The mother instantly said she would give up her claim if only the king would allow the baby to live. And in the New Testament we hear the story of the Canaanite woman who comes before Jesus, crying out for mercy. Her daughter is suffering and she comes begging for help. Eventually, Jesus recognizes this woman’s great faith and takes mercy on her, curing her daughter. All of these mother’s stories have a similar theme – self-sacrifice. They were willing to sacrifice their own security, happiness, or well-being for the sake of their children.
Mary was the same way.
If you have a Bible or a Bible app, please go to the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 1, beginning with verse 26. Luke 1:26. Mary had a lot to lose becoming the mother of Jesus. We look back now and see what an amazing honor it was to be chosen for this role, but back then there was a lot at stake. Right before Mary is pregnant, we read that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was also pregnant, itself a miracle considering Elizabeth’s advanced age. But God had graced Elizabeth with a son and she would soon give birth to the man we know as John the Baptist. Mary, however, had no immediate plans to be pregnant. So everything that’s about to happen is going to come as a big surprise.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left
This would have been a tremendous burden for Mary.
To be willing to carry a child that was not from her husband would be a disgrace in the eyes of the community. And since they had never been together, Joseph would know it was not his child and would have every reason to leave her, and from Matthew’s version of the story, Joseph originally intended to do exactly that, but was convinced to stay by an angel of the Lord. Still Mary couldn’t count on an angel to come and intervene. If Joseph had left her, it was likely she never would have been married. Because of the society they lived in, she would probably have been destitute and would need to rely on the mercy of others to provide her with food and clothing. Her life as she knew it would take a drastic turn for the worse. But she accepted her role with grace and simply trusted God would make everything all right. That’s what makes this story so amazing. She was willing to sacrifice so much for this child and for her faith in God.
It’s that kind of sacrifice that reminds us of Christ.
Just as a mother is willing to sacrifice her life for the child that she loves, so too does Christ love us. That he was willing to give his life for all of us is a testimony to love we see from parent to child. A mother’s life is often one of sacrifice. When we look again at Mary’s life not only did she risk much to give birth to Jesus, but she stood by him even at his death. She was one of the few who remained by Jesus’ side in his final moments, and despite the ridicule he suffered, the abandonment of even his closest friends she would not abandon him. The pain and difficulty of seeing her son in those final moments must have been heart rendering. But she did it out of love for her child. Because that’s what a mother does. She is willing to sacrifice herself for her children just as God does for us.
Mary fittingly is one of the cornerstones of our faith.
Not only because she was the mother of the Christ child, but because of her own example of faithfulness and self-sacrifice to God. Looking through the Bible and reading through the history of the church, mothers have been vital in the development of the faith, both on a personal level and as a mirror of the self-sacrifice of Christ. Think about the mothers we talked about today – not only Mary, but Jochebed, Naomi, the woman in King Solomon’s court, and the Canaanite woman. Their actions were all based on love and self-sacrifice. The same kind of love and self-sacrifice that God has shown to us through his son Jesus. As parents, when we are at our best, we are a reflection of the love of Christ.
When the Bible says we are created in his image, this is what it meant.
That we are built for love. That it is in our nature to love and in its purest most Christ-like form to think of others before ourselves. A mother’s natural instinct for love and self-sacrifice is because we are created in his image. But as creatures of free choice, we don’t always make the wise decision. Not all of us are blessed to have a mother who loves us the way we deserve or that she was created to be. So if you have a mother in your life who has given you this kind of love, whether she is your biological mother, your adopted mother, or your surrogate mother, remember to give thanks to her and thanks to God for the way he created us. In this time of the pandemic, it’s good to stop and remind ourselves what is truly important. Family. Friends. God. Life.