These are strange and unsettling times, aren’t they? So I pray you’re all experiencing God’s grace and peace, especially today if you’re a mum. And on this Mothering Sunday I’m asking a question related to spiritual health, Who Is the Most Blessed Mum in the World? from Luke 1.26-38, 46-55 & 11.27-28, and it’s my first point.
1. Who Is the Most Blessed Mum in the World?
Emily was helping to fill in a document, when she was asked her 'occupation'. Emily hesitated. 'What I mean is,' explained the female clerk, 'Do you have a job, or are you just a…?' Emily replied, 'I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.' The clerk paused, pen frozen in mid-air, and looked up as if she hadn’t heard right. Emily repeated it, staring with wonder as her title was written down. 'So,' said the clerk, 'just what do you do in your field?' Coolly, Emily said, 'I have a continuing programme of research in the lab and in the field. I'm working for my Masters [the whole family] and already have four credits [all sons]. Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, I’m on call 24 hours a day, yet the rewards aren’t financial.' As Emily arrived home buoyed by her glamorous new career, her lab assistants greeted her - aged 13, 11, 9 and 7. She felt very blessed.
Former U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt, said: ''It’s the mother, who’s a better citizen than the soldier who fights for his country. The successful mum, who does her part in rearing and training aright boys and girls, the men and women of the next generation, is a blessing and of great use to the community, and occupies, if she’d only realize it, a very honourable position. She’s far more important than a successful statesman, businessman, artist, or scientist."
I wonder if you agree. Many mums show many amazing God-given qualities – don’t they? God-given qualities which reflect them being made in the image of their Creator. For example, Mums often provide security and care (God says, Isaiah 66.12-13) “Like babies you will be nursed and held in my arms. You will be bounced on my knees. I will comfort you as a mother comforts her child.” (Paul writes, 1 Thessalonians 2.7) “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.” My mum protected me from some pretty disturbing things while I was growing up. Mums often make sacrifices. “[Hannah] made this vow: ‘O Lord of heaven, if you look down upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you, and he’ll be yours for his entire lifetime” 1 Samuel 1.11 My mum made many sacrifices for us. She would never spend any money on herself. She would try and take us to Sunday School even though my dad opposed it. (Jesus says) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” Matthew 23.37
But who’s the most truly blessed mum in the world? You may think it’s your mum – because she has or had you for a child! It’s been said that the Virgin Mary was the most blessed mum since she gave birth to the perfect child! Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was certainly the perfect child. What is true about Mary is what Mary herself says in Luke 1.48-49:
"My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."
All generations will call her blessed – why? – not because of what she’s done but because of what God has done – for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Yes, she humbly and willingly responds to God’s Word but he does the choosing and work in her. It’s interesting that in Luke 11.27-28, Jesus suggests a greater blessing than being his mum!
“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”
So who’s the most blessed mum in the world? Well, as I’ve hinted, it’s not a title that can be earned. It’s not a competition. It’s not the mum with the most brownie points – most toddler groups, swimming clubs, music lessons attended. It’s not the result of the best mum of the year award. Mary wasn’t chosen and blessed by God because of her parenting expertise – she didn’t have any. It was her humble receptivity to God’s word. Who are the most blessed mums and not just mums but dads too and indeed people generally – well Jesus says they are those who hear the word of God and keep it – those who hear the message of the Bible and accept it, who turn away from sin and to Christ and trust in him, who build their lives on him and his word. That’s what Mary did and went on to do. But what about you? Will you accept what God has done in Christ for you – to rescue you and bless you?
This morning your children may have broken into your sleep to offer you breakfast in bed. Even more miraculously God broke into human history in the person of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, born of the Virgin Mary, to offer us forgiveness and eternal life. As amazing as many mums are and indeed dads too we’re not perfect, we make mistakes and often can feel guilty in how we messed up and failed in this or that area of our child’s life and are in need of God’s forgiveness and freedom from guilt. Or perhaps you’ve very painfully not been able to have children for whatever reason and you’re in need of God’s comfort, peace and purpose. Well the God of the Bible is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1) and in him and through his people you can find the deepest comfort as well as the deepest peace and purpose through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. Perhaps, and I say this sensitively, fostering or adopting could be part of God’s good and blessed purpose for some of you (see James 1.27).
I wonder what some of you make of all that. Will you hear God’s word about this incredible news about Jesus and receive it and so put your faith in Christ and keep it and know God’s blessings, whether you’re a mum or a dad or involved in supporting other people’s children? Ephesians 1.3 says that if we’re trusting in Christ, God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.
But perhaps you’re thinking – is it true? Can I trust what the Bible, the word of God, says? Surely all this talk of God coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, to save his people from their sins is impossible! You’re a mum, perhaps a recent mum, and you’ve experienced the miracle of giving birth. And the birth of a child is amazing isn’t it? Even for the dad! I still vividly remember the birth of our first child. I stood there open-mouthed as Chris appeared, thinking this is a miracle – he looks so tall and alert – compared to me – how can this be? But with Jesus – a virgin birth? How can that be?
Well Luke, a doctor, and Matthew, another biographer of Jesus, are convinced it’s true and that it all makes sense if we’re to be rescued and blessed by God. Yes faith is key but faith in Jesus Christ isn’t a blind faith. No, it’s a faith grounded on historical events. Luke and Matthew both state that Mary remained a virgin in the conception of Jesus and did not have relations with Joseph. It’s long been accepted that the ultimate earthly source for these accounts is Mary and Joseph: Joseph for Matthew and Mary for Luke. In Luke 1.2 Dr Luke makes it clear that what he writes comes from eyewitnesses. Luke also says that he’s carefully investigated everything from the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, even down to the birth announcement! Colossians 4 tells us that Luke was a friend and fellow-worker of the Apostle Paul. And Luke spent two and a half years in Palestine while Paul was in prison there. Luke could easily have got his account from Mary herself then. He’s absolutely convinced of the truth of the virgin birth and he wants us to know the certainty of it too. For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1.37)
Now as an unexpected mum to be, you won’t be surprised that Mary had a question. However hers was a different question to ours and a different reaction. Verse 34: "How will this be," Mary asked the angel [after hearing she was to give birth to a son, Jesus, Son of the Most High], "since I am a virgin?" Note that Mary didn’t question that it would happen. "How will this be," she asks, "since I am a virgin?" She just wants to know how! The angel answered (v.35) “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 called holy – the Son of God. For nothing will be impossible with God." Mary simply replied, "I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word." She accepted and trusted.
So Luke invites his readers to consider the true story of Jesus again, right from the beginning of his earthly life and to know that these were true events and that Jesus Christ can change your life, whoever you are. John 3.16 says:
"God so loved the world [including you], that he gave his only Son [Jesus Christ] that whoever [whoever you are, whatever you’ve done] believes and trusts in him should not perish [not go to hell] but have eternal life."
They say there’s nothing like a mother’s love. Well God’s love is the greatest love of all. He gave his only Son to rescue us from our sins, to die in our place on the cross so that we can be forgiven and have eternal life, through faith in Jesus Christ. You see it’s not enough to believe in the truth of the Virgin Birth. The Koran says Muslims are meant to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. But they don’t believe what the virgin birth confirmed – that Jesus was God in human form, fully God and fully man. Nor do they believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our sin, sin which separates us from God and which leads to death. But the question today is not what others believe but what you believe. Jesus is the only Saviour. He’s the only way to heaven. He’s the only way to know true peace amid life’s pressures of being a mum or anyone else today. He loves you and wants you to turn to and trust in him.
Why did Jesus come into the world? Why was God’s only Son conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary? In Matthew the angel told Joseph:
"…what is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Those of you who are mums and dads will remember choosing names for your children, perhaps with difficulty. Maybe others of you still can’t understand why you were given your name! But this was the perfect name for the perfect child. For Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves.
Jesus came into the world to take on himself the death and judgement that we deserve so we could be forgiven. That’s what happened when he died on the cross. Because he was God, he’d never sinned. Because he’d become man, he could take our place, face our judgement. Our sin has been punished. He has paid so we can be forgiven through faith in him.
2. Mary’s Response and Our Response
The young and humble Mary heard God’s message, responded obediently (v.38) and rejoiced in God her Saviour (v.47). After Jesus’ birth Luke 2.19 says: “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Charles Spurgeon put what she was pondering about the baby Jesus like this:
“Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman's breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother's arms. King of angels, and yet by some reputed to be the son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet born in a stable.”
Will we treasure up all we’ve heard from the Bible today and ponder the birth of Christ, who he is and why he came in our hearts? Later when Jesus was hung on the cross to die for you and me his mother stood near the cross watching. What she was thinking and feeling we’re not told. But just imagine watching your son being killed having done nothing wrong. Anguished, she must have again pondered the angel’s words to her and Joseph:
“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 father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end… you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
To do so Jesus had to go to the cross, die and then be raised. After his resurrection and ascension Luke says Mary was in the upper room with the apostles and Jesus’ brothers as they all joined together constantly in prayer. (Acts 1.14) Mary was now one of his followers, praying and trusting in him.
If you’re not yet a Christian will you ponder and wonder at these truths of the Lord Jesus, turn to him in repentance and faith, and follow him as your Saviour and Lord? He loves you so much. He became poor that you might become rich in him. He died for you. Mums are usually willing to do so much for their children and be there for them. But Jesus died to meet our deepest need, even though we didn’t want to know him, and for those who trust in him he promises to be with us wherever we go in his name.
If you’re a Christian will you hear and obey God’s Word and call on your life? You may feel apprehensive as to what this might entail, esp in these strange times, just as Mary did when the angel visited her. But we’re not to be afraid, we follow the death defeating Christ, nothing is impossible with God and we have the Holy Spirit who empowers us and equips us. Of course, we won’t have the same role as Mary, we won’t be called blessed by all generations as Mary says she will be, but we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and be willing to do whatever God asks. Are we willing to simply respond to God’s call, as Mary did (v.38): “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word?” Why did God choose Mary? Because of her openness to his will for her life, her humility, and her willingness to serve the Lord. Although she wouldn’t have planned what happened for her life, she was willing to advance God, not herself, so she obeyed. Are you open to God’s will for your life, humbly trusting in Jesus Christ, willing to serve and ready to obey for God’s glory? Will we look out for our neighbours and colleagues as well as our mums at this time of COVID-19? You see our attitude should be the same, not just of Mary, but supremely of Christ Jesus, who humbled himself and became obedient - even to death on a cross. What will your response and attitude be? Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!