Mother's Day

Preaching and Worship Resources about Mother's Day

Typically celebrated in the Spring, Mother's Day is a secular holiday centered on gratitude to mothers.

In Scripture

"Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12).

"Hear, my child, your father's instruction, and do not reject your mother's teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck" (Prov. 1:8 - 9).

"My child, keep your father's commandment, and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you" (Prov. 6:20 - 22).

"Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. . . . Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice" (Prov. 23:22, 25).

"[A capable wife] opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her" (Prov. 31:26 - 28).

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you" (Isa. 49:15).

"As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isa. 66:13).

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, `Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.' But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, `Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.' Mary said to the angel, `How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel said to her, `The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God'" (Luke 1:26 - 35).

"Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, `Woman, here is your son.' Then he said to the disciple, `Here is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home" (John 19:25 - 27).

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. `Honor your father and mother' — this is the first commandment with a promise: `so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Eph. 6:1 - 3).

"Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters — with absolute purity" (1 Tim. 5:1 - 2).

Points to Ponder

The roots of Mother's Day in the United States lie within nineteenth-century abolitionism and temperance movements. The holiday was formally established in 1908 by a woman named Anna Reeves Jarvis, who wanted to honor the sacrifices of her own mother. Her idea gathered enthusiasts. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson named the second Sunday of May as the nation's official Mother's Day. Predictably, it didn't take long for greeting card companies, florists, candy makers, and others to capitalize.

In the U.S. there are more phone calls on Mother's Day than on any other day of the year.

Christian preachers may be understandably wary of a highly commercial holiday, but probably can't avoid at least a nod to it. On May 11, 2008, John Buchanan, then pastor of Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church, faced a preacher's challenge: Pentecost was on the same Sunday as Mother's Day. Buchanan wanted to preach Pentecost. But it was also Mother's Day and, said Buchanan, "no preacher with any sense at all would risk ignoring it. Every year someone calls and says, `I'm bringing mother to church Sunday, so make it good. And she doesn't want to hear about gun control.'" But where would Buchanan look for Mother's Day illustrations that were not sentimental or already on Mother's Day cards — or both? He looked within the vast emotional resources of Garrison Keillor. It happened that Keillor had written an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune earlier in the week titled "Nobody Loves You Like Your Mama Does": "She loves you," Keillor wrote. "You could come home with snakes tattooed on your face and she would still see the good in you. She knows when you're in trouble. And you will get into deep trouble someday. Count on it. But your mother will still love you. Like an old lioness, she'll come running, even if you're 2,000 miles away."

Ma Joad In one of the stellar American novels, John Steinbeck wrote of Ma Joad, a depression-era mother of a family ousted from their farm and migrating to the great central valley of California. She tries everything she can think of to care for her brood and keep it together. At one point, Steinbeck tells us of her strength: "Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken." (The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck Centennial Edition (Penguin, 2002), p. 74.)

Some congregants have struggled with difficult mothers Pastorally adept preachers will be mindful on Mother's Day that some congregants have struggled with difficult mothers and approach the holiday with resentment or guilt or other complex emotions. Still others have been trying and failing to become mothers and feel bereft on the second Sunday of May.

Mothers have lifelong impact. War literature is full of stories of dying infantrymen crying out for their mothers. St. Augustine credited his mother, Monica, for his conversion to Christianity. In his farewell speech — perhaps "the most raw, acutely painful, and unforgettable speech in American political history" — a disgraced and resigned President Richard Nixon told the world of his mother, Hannah, who had nursed two of her boys dying of tuberculosis. Nixon twice named her "a saint." (John Farrell, Richard Nixon: The Life (Doubleday, 2017), p. 531.)

Of course the most famous mother in the world is Jesus's mother, Mary. This is initially surprising. Mary is so unlikely a major role player that the news of her destiny is bewildering even to her. Mary is like Israel, or like the barren Hannah, or like the aged Sarah. She has nothing to recommend her as the choice of God's electing grace. The gospels give us no reason to think she's pedigreed or accomplished. Of such other Lukan characters in the birth narratives as Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, we are told up front that they are righteous, blameless, devout, prophetic. All we know of Mary is her name, her town, and her betrothed. And yet she carries the Savior of the world in her womb — a signature role of which Protestants have typically made too little.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.