Last Sunday, I attended a baby shower for my niece. It was a bittersweet day because while my niece is thrilled to be expecting her first born child, a little girl, her pregnancy has been fraught with health issues. Also, her own Mom passed away shortly after she was born. So she never knew her Mom, and is sad that her daughter will never know her Grandmother. I also imagine today, being Mother’s Day, will be a joyful, but bittersweet day, for her as well.
Mother’s Day is always a happy day for those who are blessed to have their Mom near, or for Moms who enjoy spending time with their children. The origin of Mother’s Day dates back centuries. The ancient Greeks held an annual festival to honor the goddess Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother of many deities of Greek mythology. Ancient Romans held a spring festival in honor of Cybele, a mother goddess. Early Christians held a festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ. In the U.S., Mother’s Day is a more recent holiday, born of a daughter’s desire to honor the legacy of her mother.
Ann Reeves Jarvis was the mother of eleven children living in West Virginia. She was active in church and civic affairs. Concerned about poor health and sanitary conditions in her community that contributed to the high mortality rate of children, in the 1850s she organized Mothers Day Work Groups at local churches to provide women to care for families with tubercular mothers, inspect milk for children, and procure medicine for the indigent. The work groups also tended to wounded Union and Confederate soldiers returning from the Civil War. After the war ended, Jarvis and other women organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist activities in the hope of uniting former Civil War foes.
In 1905, Ann Reeves Jarvis died. Three years later, on May 10, 1908, through the efforts of Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Marie, families gathered at events held at Ann Reeves Jarvis’ hometown church in Grafton, West Virginia. These events spread to other cities and states until 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in the U.S. These early celebrations were a time when families gathered at their homes with their mothers. The purposeful designation of “Mother’s” rather than the plural “Mothers’” Day was intended to stress that the holiday is more about honoring your own mother than the collective mom. We all know that none of us would be here without our Moms (obviously), but I also feel that no one of us would be who we are today with out the positive influence of a loving, caring mother. Even for those who lost their Moms way too soon, the impact these women have had on their children will be felt throughout their lives.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I cannot help but think about the Mary, mother of our blessed Jesus, who is really the mother of us all. The word “mother” or “mothers” appears in the Bible almost 300 times. A mother’s influence is also stressed in Ezekiel 16:44 where we read the phrase, “As is the mother, so is her daughter.” The love of children was deep in the hearts of the Hebrew women, and the mother was regarded with the deepest reverence. When I think of biblical mothers, the first two who come to mind are Mary and Elizabeth. The world’s most revered mother is Mary, mother of Jesus. Her cousin Elizabeth was also a godly person, who in her old age gave birth to John the Baptist. Mary visited Elizabeth for about three months while both were approaching motherhood. With this common experience their age differences became insignificant as they joyfully planned for the birth of their sons, who were to be so near the same age. They found much joy in each other because they loved and understood each other and had the same strong belief in God.
Another New Testament mother was Salome, mother of the disciples James and John. A few scholars suggest that she was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Certainly, she and her sons were very close to Jesus. We think of her as an ambitious person. She was so desirous for her sons to enjoy extra prestige during Jesus’ ministry that she made a special public request to him. (Matthew 20:21 “Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.”) Jesus rebuked her gently, (Matthew 20:23 “To sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”) We should not be too severe on her, for she remained one of the most faithful followers of Jesus to the end. And evidently she handed down a rich spiritual legacy to her sons. It was to her son John that Jesus entrusted His own mother at the end. Another mother spoke about in the Bible is Rachel. She was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and was the first woman on record to lose her life in childbirth. Rachel died when Benjamin was born. Benjamin must have heard a great deal about his mother because Jacob loved her dearly. These are just a few of the Mothers in the Bible. May we be inspired by their lives and the lives of their children.
The Bible never states that every woman should be a mother. However, it does say that those whom the Lord blesses to be mothers should take the responsibility seriously. Mothers have a unique and crucial role in the lives of their children. Motherhood is not a chore or an unpleasant task. Just as a mother bears a child during pregnancy, and just as a mother feeds and cares for a child during infancy, so mothers also play an ongoing role in the lives of their children, whether they are adolescents, teenagers, young adults, or even adults with children of their own. While the role of motherhood must change and develop, the love, care, nurture, and encouragement a mother gives should never cease.
A PRAYER for YOUNG MOTHERS
Our heavenly Father, we thank thee for the gift of motherhood.
Help us as young mothers to seek thy guidance for our children.
Grant us wisdom, strength, patience, faith and love.
Create in us the willingness to dedicate ourselves and our children to Thee.
In the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ,