Pause for thought: This year, Mothering Sunday falls on 26th March. Traditionally this was the day when Christians visited their mother church (the most important church or cathedral) halfway through Lent. In Victorian times, the entire family went to church and returned to a special meal. Working children were allowed the day off to visit their mothers. They took with them a gift such as flowers, gloves or a simnel cake. American soldiers who came to Britain during the Second World War revived the idea of a special day for mothers. Cards were designed to show how hard mothers worked in the home.
Being a parent is never easy. Take time to read the Bible story below. Here Mary has to deal with the first signs of independence shown by her son Jesus as he reaches maturity in cultural terms. Today, we still struggle with the challenge of finding the right balance between letting go of our children, allowing them the freedom to learn and explore, and keeping them safe.
When facing any difficult issues as a parent, it can sometimes be useful to think how our own parents treated us. We may want to follow their example in some areas and do things differently in others. Certainly God (whose love for us is sometimes referred to in motherly ways in the Bible) gives us the freedom to make mistakes. The gift of his friendship is always on offer as well as the chance to make a fresh start.
Being a good friend to our children is important and can be difficult to achieve if we did not have that sort of relationship with our own parents. It implies a ‘coming alongside’ for non-judgmental communication, rather than an inflexible imposition of rules from above. Praise is always encouraging to them and it can be very powerful to speak well to others of our children in their hearing!
A few weeks ago, the book Little Women was serialized on Radio 4. In one episode, Jo bemoans her inability to control her temper. Her mother, far from chastising her, reveals that her own temper was far worse as a teenager, and explains how she gradually came to deal with it. She expresses confidence that Jo will do the same. What a great example of good mothering!
Have you seen Jesus? (Based on Luke 2:41-52)
Mary was bent over a large basket, packing for the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The children were playing, so she could work in peace! A thought struck her. Of course! Jesus would walk with the men this year, now that he was twelve. She straightened up. Twelve years since . . . ! It didn’t seem possible! He’d grown from a helpless baby into this lively boy. She smiled. In some ways he was just like the other lads – always hungry, clothes dusty from play! But she knew he was no ordinary boy. How could she forget the visit of that angel with his heart-stopping message – those visitors to the stable with their unearthly story? She’d been over and over it all, trying to think what it would mean . . .
* * *
Mary relaxed on the long walk to Jerusalem, chatting with relatives and friends, and watching Jesus with his cousins.
“Who’ll be the first to see Jerusalem?” they challenged each other.
“Who’ll be the first to see the Temple – God’s house?” asked Jesus.
* * *
They spent the week celebrating the Passover and thanking God for bringing their ancestors safely out of Egypt. Mary treasured this time away from so many household chores, soaking up God’s presence. Too soon, it was time to walk come again.
She was at the front of the party with the women and babies, when Joseph caught her arm, his eyes anxious.
“Where’s Jesus?” he asked.
She stared at him. “I thought he was with you.”
“No! I thought he was with you!”
Her breath quickened as she turned to the other women.
“Have you seen Jesus? Oh please, have you seen him?” Heads shook. She could hear Joseph asking the same question, his voice urgent.
“No, no we haven’t seen him – not since we were in the city. You’d better go back there.”
Afterwards, the next few days seemed a bewildering blur. Disjointed memories of market places, narrow streets hemmed in by city walls . . . Often she thought she heard his voice, saw his back view, only to be dismayed as an unfamiliar face was turned to hers. By the third day, even Joseph could not reassure her that their precious son was alive.
Then they entered the temple. And there he was – sitting with the teachers, asking those profound questions of his. She could see they were impressed. If only they knew the way he’d treated his parents! The pent up emotion burst out of her.
“Son, we’ve been searching everywhere for you!”
He turned to look at her, those eyes bright and warm as if lit by an inner light. “I thought you would know I was in my Father’s House!”
She could not speak, her mind struggling with his words.
“Come on!” said Joseph, kindly. “It’s time to go home.”
And as always, the lad obeyed.
Have you seen Jesus? Read the Bible story together as a family. Wonder about it as follows:
- How do you think Mary felt at different moments in the story?
- Do you think Jesus meant to worry his parents?
- Do you think that people can seem angry when they are really just anxious?
- Do you think this episode became a family story, often repeated? What family stories do you have?
Unbelievable chores! This could be played on a car journey or long walk. Parents think up chores they do that their children may not even know exist! For example, sorting recycling from the rubbish! Children ask questions to which the answer is “yes” or “no”. Can they guess each job in less than twenty “nos”?
How many times? Anyone for some Maths practise? Everyone works out how many times the person caring for him or her has:
- Made their bed for them so far this week/year
- Provided a taxi service for them so far this week/year
- Cooked something for them so far this week/year
- Been thanked by their children this week!
A thank you card: Place an A4 piece of paper in front of you, landscape (long edges top and bottom). Fold the paper in half from left to right and then again. Open the paper back up.
On the first panel on the left, draw yourself holding a huge bunch of flowers/wrapped present. The bouquet or present should spill over a lot into the second panel. Draw the person you are sending the card to in the third and fourth panels, sitting in an armchair with some tea on a table in front of them. Colour in your drawing. Cut out the part of the bouquet/present that spills into the second panel.
Fold the card in half again, but then fold back the first panel so that the flowers/present pops out! You could write “Just for you . . .” on the front, then “ . . . to thank you for all you do!” where there is space on the third or fourth panel.
Where does it belong? Are you always searching for things at home? Who usually knows where they are? Why not challenge everyone to improve the way things are stored in their rooms, so that there is a special place for everything? You could decorate some shoeboxes, or label tins/sealable freezer bags/old mugs, or buy supermarket storage baskets for spare coins, crayons, hair bands etc.
Has anyone ever lost something precious/a person? Link with the Bible story. Why do you think Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple? I wonder what this family story told them about Jesus?
Building a nest: It’s nearly Spring when birds will be building nests. You could place some nesting materials such as moss, dry grass, wool, animal hair and scraps of material in a plastic fruit net and hang in a tree.
Go for a walk and collect some small dry twigs, leaves, bark and feathers to make a collage of a bird protecting chicks under its wings. You could supplement with a bag of craft feathers. Write a caption, “He will cover you with his feathers . . .” from Psalm 91: verse 4.
Gingerbread Family: Make some gingerbread dough. Everyone cuts out a gingerbread man, woman or child to represent themselves! Before baking, press currants into the shapes for eyes or buttons. When they have cooled, add other features and clothes with writing icing. As you do so, discuss whether you think it is easy to be a Mum/Dad/child today. Was it easy for Mary to be the mother of Jesus? Do you think the story is pointing ahead to something that happened at the end of Jesus’ life?