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Chapter 8. Messages For Mother’s Day

Chapter 8. MESSAGES FOR MOTHER’S DAY

An annual celebration of the work and worth of mothers has become both a religious observance and a most profitable commercial occasion particularly in America where this day originated. As it approaches, the stores will be filled with eager shoppers, striving to find something unique, or accustomed gifts and cards and flowers, to bring a quick smile of appreciation to old lips, to light up old eyes. Gifts will be sent to mothers in distant parts.

While we can justify the observance of a Mother’s Day on the grounds that the Bible is so full of admonitions regarding motherhood, and of the influence of godly mothers as they endeavor to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord, thereby making a wholesome and substantial contribution to human society, we must guard against the sickly sentimentalism and shallow eulogism and emotionalism frequently characterizing such a day. As the one great commission of the church is the glorification of God and the proclamation of His Word for the salvation and sanctification of souls, the mere eulogy of pure human virtues is outside her message. Extolling human qualities, as humanism does, is to contradict the teaching of the Word regarding the glorification of the flesh.

The aspect that must be stressed on Mother’s Day is that God created woman to “multiply and replenish the earth.” To mothers, then, is “the privilege of populating God’s perfect creation with beings whose hearts were to be in full harmony with the thoughts of God who would in all their activities reflect the glory of their Creator, and who would in perfect bliss and holiness live on forever.” Alas, when the first mother yielded to the seductive voice of Satan, motherhood came under the blight of God’s curse! Yet immediately after the fall of Eve, there came the first prophecy and promise of an event which would again hallow motherhood. Through grace, every woman bearing a child can rejoice in the fact that the babe of her heart is a manifestation of divine mercy and privilege. As the result of Calvary, motherhood has been sanctified and through the acceptances of the merits of Christ, the Son of Mary, women can bring into the world those over whom God has yearned from all eternity, and whose salvation He planned.

Further, mothers do not exist solely to satisfy maternal instincts and to have children they can nurse and fondle, but the bringing into the world of eternal entities—males and females &--;which are to live on for weal or for woe forever and ever.

One of the most magnificent features of God’s work of Creation was the power He gave to all creatures and plants to reproduce after their own kind, a fact adverse to the theory of evolution. It was so with our first parents, Adam and Eve, to whom God gave the command, “Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Parenthood, then, is God’s plan for a constantly growing and developing world, and every time a new life is brought into being, God as the Creator, is magnified. In Bible times barrenness was the saddest plight of women, particularly in Old Testament days when any given Jewish woman nursed the hope that she might become the mother of Israel’s Messiah. Today an alarming number of marriages are childless both through natural and unnatural reasons. Manufacturers of contraceptive materials, and traders in illegal abortion, are growing rich over the desire of women to remain childless. Yet, it is still true that children are a gracious gift from God, as the psalmist reminds us—

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them (Psalm 127:3-5).

True, God uses mothers for the establishment and maintenance of human institutions in government and state, but primarily Christian mothers are for the purpose of sending forth into a sinful world those who will become the salt of the earth and permeate the world with Christian idealism. Mothers are, or were meant to be, the chief soul-molders, character-constructors, God’s recruiting agents for the eternal realms of heaven. Both mothers and fathers are richly blessed of the Lord when they can approach the throne of grace praying in true sincerity—

With joy we bring them, Lord,

Devoting them to Thee,

Imploring, that, as we are Thine,

Thine may our offspring be.

A store, providing suitable gifts for those who love the best, put out this acrostic of Mother—

M is for the million things she gave you. (Today’s your chance to give something to her.)

O is only that she’s growing old. (That’s what happens to Mother. One never notices it until one day, she’s a little old lady.)

T is for the tears she shed to save you. (Many’s the tear. Don't make her cry today.)

H is for her heart of purest gold. (That heart has ever been filled with love for you.)

E is for her eyes, with love-light burning. (Have you ever seen them when deep down inside you, they weren't filled with love for you?)

R is right—and right she'll always be. (Who dares to say differently?)

For those who do not know the story behind the origin of Mother’s Day, now observed by all English speaking peoples, we retell its humble beginning—

That fame often is fleeting—and the memories of most men and women short—has been brought home once more by the pathetic story of Anna M. Jarvis, who is the founder of Mother’s Day.

If it hadn't been for the philanthropic spirit of a few Philadelphians who came to her rescue recently, the blind and penniless 83-year old woman would have been doomed to spend the last months of her life alone in a charity hospital.

It was over 60 years ago that Miss Jarvis got the idea of having a day set aside when men and women throughout the nation would pay special honors to their mothers.

Anna Jarvis' own mother, Mrs. Ann Reeves Jarvis, had died on the second Sunday in May, 1905, and that is why this particular Sunday has been designated as Mother’s Day. It was first celebrated in a tiny church in Grafton, West Virginia, the town where Anna was born.

Anna Jarvis was 10 at the time and attended the church with her parents and brothers and sisters. At the age of 20 she was graduated from Augusta Female Seminary at Staunton, Virginia, and returned home to teach in the public schools.

She also taught with her mother in the Sunday school of Andrews Methodist Church. During that time her mother laid plans to set aside a day in honor of the mothers of the world but never lived to see her work completed.

Move to Philadelphia

On December 31, 1902, the father died and Mrs. Jarvis and her children moved to Philadelphia to live with a son, Claude. Three years later on May 9, 1905, Mrs. Jarvis died.

In 1907, Miss Jarvis invited some friends to her home in Philadelphia to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death and announced plans to make Mother’s Day a national observance on the second Sunday in May.

Next, Miss Jarvis wrote L. L. Lear, superintendent of Andrews Sunday school, with the suggestion the church celebrate a Mother’s Day in honor of her mother.

On Sunday, May 10, 1908, the first Mother’s Day church service was held at Andrews Church. Two years later, Governor William E. Glasscock of West Virginia officially proclaimed the first Mother’s Day.

Although a sincere devotion and a deep realization of her loss undoubtedly were behind the movement, the real beginning of Mother’s Day might be said to go back to the time just after the Civil War when Anna’s own mother organized the Union and Confederate mothers of her little community in an effort to get the boys in blue and the boys in gray to be friends again.

Anna carried this memory on.

In those early days in Philadelphia, Anna Jarvis paid out of her own pocket to have carriages take old people and those who were invalids to church on Mother’s Day. She bought and gave away hundreds of carnations—the emblem she herself had designated.

There were expensive trips abroad to spread the custom of Mother’s Day in Europe. Anna wrote personally to editors, ministers, presidents and even to kings.

Gradually, as she got more and more wrapped up in the thing she'd created she lost contact with most of her friends and her only close companion was Elsa, the blind sister with whom she lived alone in a rambling Philadelphia house. There the two aging women kept the furnishings as they had been during their mother’s lifetime.

The years went by and Anna’s money dwindled. It was all spent on the cause that seemed to have become her one interest in life.

Claude Jarvis, a bachelor brother and a shrewd business man, thought that he had left both of his sisters well provided for in his will when he died in 1926. But as a result of various legal and technical complications, the Jarvis sisters failed to receive the inheritance the brother had intended for them.

They struggled along as best they could until the day when Anna Jarvis' eyes began to get dim. Finally she was nearly as sightless as her sister. By this time few people remembered that this shriveling little old lady once had been an internationally known figure.

No one paid any heed to the comings or goings of the woman anymore. But the doctor she finally consulted about her eyes was worried after he'd sent her home without hope of ever regaining the full use of her sight.

He asked a welfare worker to go around to find out if Miss Jarvis was getting proper care—not realizing that it was her responsibility to do the caring for someone who was worse off than herself.

There, in a big, chilly house the investigator found a true case of the blind leading the blind. And the two invalid sisters were near starvation when found. Anna Jarvis, the spinster who founded Mother’s Day over 60 years ago, seemed doomed to a lonely and penniless old age.

Miss Anna had suffered a nervous collapse and was sent to the city hospital. Elsa was cared for by social service until her death in 1941.

And there the story might have ended with the woman who had devoted so many years of her life to honoring the world’s mothers eventually dying alone and friendless.

But word of Miss Jarvis' unhappy situation finally came to a lawyer who had known her from the time when he was a little boy.

He called together the few men and women who still felt a friendly regard for the now helpless old lady and digging down into their own pockets they built up a fund large enough to move her to a luxurious private room in a sanitarium where her every whim would be provided for for the rest of her days.

When word got around about the way these sons and daughters of Philadelphia had rallied to help the founder of Mother’s Day other people started sending contributions for her welfare.

Florists from every state in the nation, and from Hawaii, made voluntary gifts of money.

The makers of Mother’s Day cards also contributed to the cause.

Some of the money donated was used to erect a memorial to Mother’s Day and its founder. So widespread became the observance of Mother’s Day that in 1934 the government issued a stamp bearing Whistler’s portrait of his mother.

It is indeed appropriate to have a day set aside as one on which we can pay tributes of love and reverence to the mother who brought us into the world and nursed us through childhood and who loves us even unto old age. Mothers are honored because their children are their first thought and care. They are the ones to cheer us in our successes and console us in our defeats. We think of millions of mothers who saw their sons march out to war, many of whom never came back—others returned maimed for life. True, the sacrifice of the boys was great; equally so were the sacrifices, heartaches and tears of mothers left at home to pray and wait. Who can measure the pain of the mother’s anxiety as she awaits news of a son or husband when war engulfs the world?

The observer of this day who has a living mother to honor is truly fortunate, for the opportunity still remains to him to speak the word of endearment and appreciation and pride which is the only thing she covets.

The observer of this day who has only the memory of a mother can know the richness and beauty and comfort of it by calling back the memory and cherishing it, which fulfills the faith of the one who gave him life.

Let Mother’s Day bring happiness where it can, and let it turn the key of loving remembrance upon the cherished days of the past where that is our only recourse, and we will have observed the day in keeping with its high and lovely purpose.

Yes, we welcome the institution of Mother’s Day, but is it not more commendable to remember our mothers every day, and not reserve our roses, gifts and candies for one day in the year? There are many lonely, almost forgotten mothers, finding it hard to make ends meet, whose long days would be considerably brightened if only thoughtless, ungrateful children would remember their obligations to those who gave them life.

As pastors and leaders of women’s groups are ever on the lookout for suitable material for messages and programs, we include a few appropriate poems we have gathered by the way. On May 11, 1946, Harry H. Schlacht wrote the following unique poem for The New York Journal American entitled “Mother’s Day—Honor Her.” The last part of Schlacht’s moving lyric awaits fulfillment.