A Mother's Gift

Luke 1:46-49

Every expectant mother secretly wondered, “Is this child the one? Will he be the one to save our people?” And then, it happened. It came by angelic announcement – a young woman named Mary would be the one to bear the Messiah, the very son of God himself. We cannot even begin to imagine how this wondrous announcement affected her – stunned, startled, overjoyed, dismayed, frightened – this pregnancy was like no other that had ever occurred, this child like no other that was ever born.

Luke’s Gospel gives us little glimpses into this wondrous relationship – this mother and her son. How she looked at him – how he affected her life had to be unique from every other person who ever has lived. Luke tells us that as soon as Mary learned she was expecting, she hurried to the town where her relative Elizabeth, the expecting mother of John the baptizer lived. As soon as she entered the house, the baby leapt within Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” “The mother of my Lord!” How those words must have rung in her ears. In her own words she sings a beautiful song of thanksgiving and praise: “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49.

Jesus was born – that story itself is worthy of our attention – very little is told us of his childhood – we are told of his family’s escape into Egypt, of their hometown in Nazareth, of their trip to the Temple – but there is a phrase used twice – “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and thegrace of God was upon him.” and “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:40,52).

We are familiar with the narrative of his birth – we know well the stories of his adulthood and his ministry. And because we are given so little about his childhood, we tend to rush through that period without much thought. Jesus, though, didn’t just emerge a full grown man. He wasn’t exempt from the normal childhood – after all, the Hebrews writer tells us, “he was like us in every respect.”

I imagine that, like every child, Jesus grew and matured, learned and absorbed the world around him very much through the eyes of his mother. Mary’s perspective must have molded Jesus’ view of the world. Certainly, he was God’s Son, but he was also Mary’s little boy. And I can’t imagine that Mary didn’t have a powerful impact on the type of man Jesus became.

Twice in the Gospel, the writer tells us “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” In a similar way, every mother stores up memories of her children – little sayings, funny mannerisms, qualities and characteristics that imprint her children upon her. Mary was no different. From what Luke tells us, the things Mary observed and pondered and treasured were things that confirmed what she knew to be true – that indeed, her son was exactly what the angel had promised.

At the cross, the Gospel of John lets us in on one of those poignant moments between Mary and Jesus. Nearing death, Jesus is concerned for his mother. With his disciple John, and his mother Mary drawn near, Jesus ask John to take care of his mother, “Son behold your mother…dear woman, behold your son.” It was a beautiful, compassionate gesture of love. But without a doubt, it had to be the most painful moment of her life.

We speak of the agony the Father experienced as his Son hung upon the cross. Can his mother’s agony have been any less severe? It seems that Mary had watched her son all though his life, had treasured up in her heart all that God had done through her beloved son, and now, to watch him dying in excruciating pain. How could a mother’s heart not be breaking?

How does a mother view her children? We get a fascinating view of Jesus through the eyes of Mary – one of absolute devotion, but one with moments in which even she must have wondered where all this was leading. We can see a mother’s perspective.

One mother, when asked if she had to do it all over again, would she still have children. She thought for a moment, then answered, “Yes, just not the same ones.”
Children can be expensive, frustrating, inconvenient and a whole lot of work. And despite it all, they are the most precious gift God can give a human being.
“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Psalm 127:3-5
Children are an incredible gift of immense value. Mary considered this baby a gift from God – she sang, “How blessed I am… for the mighty one has done great things for me, holy is his name.”
Your children are no less a gift from God.

It is true that children are a gift, and yet, they are not ours to keep. They are in a very real sense, only entrusted to us for a very short while. Children are a responsibility not to be taken lightly.
How we raise them, the values we instill in them, the eternity we prepare them for – I believe we are accountable for all that.

God places a child within our care to raise for him. Just as God placed Jesus within the care of an earthly mother, God places every child within the care of an earthly mother. How much less important is it that we raise our children to be involved in God’s kingdom?

Every mother looks at her children and dreams of what they might become. Luke tells us Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. She had a dream for her little boy. She knew that not only her hopes, but the hopes of all humanity rested upon him. None of us give birth to a savior, but your hopes and dreams are no less significant as you set their feet on a path for their lives.

Prentice Meador, in a film series entitled, Saving Your Child’s Life, says every parent must give their children two things – roots and wings. We give them a foundation – a sure footing – security and self-esteem – we plant their roots deep in God’s love. Then we let them go – we give them wings to become their own person.

In a very powerful way, a child experiences the world first through their mother’s eyes. The kind of life you live, the way you view the world, the values you hold make a permanent impression on your children. And they may encounter lots of counter-influences in their lives, but they will have a difficult time overriding yours. There are four important qualities that are especially important that you model for your children:

Love – This love is unearned (you loved them first), unconditional (you love them in spite of), undeniable (regardless of how many protests that you exist only to make their lives miserable). Your love will be the yardstick by which they measure God’s love.

Faith – Your relationship with God will be the one fundamental relationship that your children will either strive to live up to, or struggle to live over. You model faith for your children in a way that no one else can. We dads can make a positive contribution, but when you tally up the percentages, your children will see God through your eyes.

Grace – Our children first learn grace through their mothers – extending forgiveness – pardoning mistakes – giving without expecting – accepting without a list of requirements. Not only will your children see God through your eyes, but in a very real way, their picture of God will be what they see of God living in you.

Hope – Our children need hope – to know that God is in control – to know that in spite of all the bad they will encounter that there is a good which is much more powerful. They need hope in a future, and a home in heaven. And it’s your forecast they listen to to see what they have to look forward to.

The title of this sermon is “A Mother’s Gift.” I was thinking of all the ways that phrase could be taken:
A child is gift from God to a mother.
A child is a mother’s gift back to God.
But especially, Jesus was a mother’s gift from her heart to the world.

John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.” Did Mary give any less? What we are, and the salvation we experience, is in a small way, also the gift of a mother who willingly gave her son to us – Emmanuel – “God with us,” Jesus – who has come to take away the sins of the world.