The 30th March is Mothering Sunday, the day on which we like to spoil our mothers and give them gifts of flowers and chocolates to thank them for all they mean for us. What many people do not realise is that Mothering Sunday is a Christian tradition that goes back many centuries.
Mothering Sunday has been celebrated in this country since the 16th century. It was the day when people were encouraged to return to worship in their mother church, where they had been baptised. This became an occasion for family reunions, and by the 19th century Mothering Sunday had become the traditional day for children working as domestic servants or apprentices to be given the day off to visit their families, and give gifts of Simmel cake and flowers to their mothers.
Today Mothering Sunday, like many other special days, has become very commercialised, but is still an occasion to think about all things which concern motherhood. For Christians it is also a day when we remember that God cares for us like a mother.
Often when people talk about God, they picture a man. One of the reasons is because Jesus taught us to prayer ‘Our Father in heaven…’ But I have met people who struggle with the male imagery of God, especially if their own experience with their fathers was not a positive one. But the Bible also uses female imagery to describe God, for example God is portrayed as a comforting mother. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13) God is also compared to a nursing mother “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.” (Isaiah 49:15) And in the book of Genesis we are reminded that male AND female we are all created in God’s image, so God is both Father and Mother to us all.
Mothers are very important, and the very least we can do is set aside a day to celebrate them, but it is also a good opportunity to remember that we have a God who like a good mother loves, nurtures and protects us too. And just as a good mother never stops loving her children, no matter how old they may be, so God never stops loving us.