I wonder what an advertisement for a mother would look like:
“ Wanted : mother. No experience necessary, no training given.
Hours : 24-hour shift during whole life of child.
Terms : Salary not available, but small government grant per child. Holiday and sick leave negotiable, but not encouraged.
Knowledge/experience : The following would be a definite advantage: nursing, catering, philosophy, psychiatry, religion, counselling, finance, dressmaking, computer skills, media studies (including TV repairs), finance, arts, science, sport and taxi driving, and conflict management.
Product non-exchangeable and non-returnable. Results – unpredictable. Rewards – potentially high.
(based on ‘Situation Vacant: A celebration of mothers’, Jan Power, Pan Books 1994).
Being a mother is one of the most demanding jobs in the world. But of course it is not really a job – it is something which for millions of people around the world is a way of life. That advertisement reminds us what being a mother involves – and if you saw such a advert in a newspaper, it wouldn’t be very surprising if nobody applied.
It’s all too easy for us to forget what is involved in being a mother, especially when the tasks of motherhood, for many mothers, have to be squeezed into the gaps which are left after work is finished – both at home and, for some, outside the home as well. And the fact that a mother doesn’t get paid for looking after her children (except for the small amount given by the government) can easily make us forget that the real value of a mother’s work is far greater than any sum of money could reflect.
So Mothering Sunday is a time for giving thanks for all that our mothers do and have done for us, and for showing them that we value their care and love.
But what can we learn from the Bible about what being a mother involves? There’s actually not all that much in the Bible which is specifically about motherhood. We have to look quite hard for clues. This morning’s reading, however (Luke 2. 41-51: the boy Jesus lost in Jerusalem) is quite revealing, if we look closely at it.
To the children: ask them if they remember the story; go through it again with them.
What can we learn, from this story, about what it must have been like for Mary to be Jesus’ mother?
(i) She – and her husband Joseph – were not free from the kind of worries that any parent might have. What a nightmare it must have been to lose your child in a strange city – especially if you know that you have been given the responsibility of bringing up God’s own Son. St. Luke tells us that Mary was anxious, worried – and that when she and Joseph found Jesus, they told him as much.
(ii) The second thing we see is that Mary and Joseph did not understand Jesus when he told them that he had been in the Temple, and that they should not have worried about him. “Why were you searching for me?” he said. “Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
(iii) Thirdly – we can see Jesus already beginning to grow up. Mary and Joseph have to realise that he will soon become an adult, and will grow apart from them. He will have his own life to lead, and they will have to accept that he will no longer be their little boy.
In this brief glimpse of Jesus’ childhood, then, we see three things that every mother will recognise:
What do all these things have in common? Answer – they all show something of the costliness of a mother’s love . Much of what a mother does is costly – not in terms of money, but in terms of what a mother has to go through. Your mother worries about you because she loves you and cares for you – and that anxiety can be painful. When your mother can’t understand you, you may feel frustrated – but she feels frustrated as well. And when you begin to grow up, your mother will usually miss the little child she once had, and, from time to time, long to have that child back.
So, children, on this Mothering Sunday: