30 September, 2023

Preaching the Mother’s Day Sermon with Creativity and Compassion

by | 2 May, 2023 | 1 comment

By Chris Philbeck 

When I put together my annual preaching calendar, I always place an asterisk next to holiday weekends. Then, I look at each one to determine whether the holiday will be the focus of our weekend service.  

Early in my preaching career, I always preached a Mother’s Day sermon, and the church would always have some kind of recognition and celebration of the mothers who were present. But over the years, like many of you, my approach to Mother’s Day has changed. It’s not that I never preach a Mother’s Day sermon, but I don’t preach one every year. You see, over time I have become more aware of the pain many women, and sometimes men, experience on Mother’s Day.  

Some folks grieve because their mother has died. Some moms in church have had children die. Some women listening to the sermon have had an abortion; for them, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of that choice. Some women desperately want to be moms, but it hasn’t happened. Some single women want to get married and have children. Some people in attendance have had a difficult and painful relationship with their mother, and some folks are filled with regret because of the pain and grief they brought to their mother.  

The bottom line is, our approach to Mother’s Day isn’t as simple as it might seem on the surface. 

FOUR SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS 

Considering all of these factors, here are some suggestions that might help us reframe Mother’s Day in a way that blesses everyone.  

1. Recognize, honor, and celebrate all women. If you give a gift, give it to all women.  

2. Be honest in acknowledging that Mother’s Day is great for some but difficult for others. You can even get specific by mentioning some of the life experiences mentioned above and offering a prayer on behalf of all women. 

3. Use videos that celebrate mothers in fun and inspirational ways. 

4. Preach a Mother’s Day sermon when you’ve got a Mother’s Day sermon that speaks, on some level, to everyone.  

I’ll expand on that last suggestion by sharing examples of two Mother’s Day sermons I have preached. 

FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT . . .  

Several years ago, I realized I hadn’t preached a Mother’s Day sermon in a while, so I thought I should embrace that challenge. I ended up with a message I called “Not Another Mother’s Day Message,” based on the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar from Genesis 16 and 21. (Yes, I know that in Genesis 16, those first two folks were still known as Abram and Sarai, so no need to correct me on that.)  

In Genesis 12, of course, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. But he and Sarah remained childless even though God reiterated the promise in Genesis 15. Ultimately, impatience and a lack of faith caused Abraham and Sarah to take matters into their own hands, and Abraham had a son with Sarah’s maidservant Hagar. 

When Hagar was pregnant, Sarah began to despise her. She also made life difficult for Abraham who, in an effort to keep the peace, told Sarah to do what she wanted with Hagar (Genesis 16:6). Sarah ended up mistreating her maidservant so badly that Hagar ran away. It was in that setting that the angel of the Lord found Hagar and spoke words of encouragement and direction to her (Genesis 16:7-12).  

As a result of this, the Bible says,  

[Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). 

So, Hagar gave the name El Roi to God, which means, “the God who sees me.” There’s more to the story that I don’t have the space to recount, but I was able to take the truth that our God is a God who sees us and make some very comforting applications to all the women who were present.  

A key point was this: “Mother’s Day may be a day when you just want to be alone, but you’re never alone because our God is El Roi—the God who sees you.”  

TO THE PANDEMIC’S DARKEST DAYS 

The last Mother’s Day sermon I preached was in May 2020, when all of us were dealing with the reality of COVID-19. It was an online message because our church wasn’t meeting in person. This message was titled, “A Mother’s Day Sermon for All of Us.”  

At that time, my wife, Sandy—who is the best mother and grandmother I know—was struggling with significant depression; the separation from our children and grandchildren took a heavy toll on her. I told her I had an idea for a Mother’s Day sermon that shared the reality of her struggle, along with some specific ways God would be faithful to meet her in that struggle. I asked her for permission to do that because I knew she wasn’t alone. She agreed. 

I shared a Mother’s Day message that year developed from 1 Kings 19, where Elijah fell into such a severe depression he just wanted to die. But God was faithful to meet Elijah in his struggle.  

Describing the challenges Elijah faced allowed me to make three key points: 

1. No one is exempt from emotional trauma.  

2. We can never forget the importance of caring for ourselves . . . and especially for our soul.  

3. Healing for emotional trauma comes when we get face-to-face with God.  

A blessing from that story and sermon is our church family reached out with a lot of prayers and encouragement for Sandy, who is a “behind the scenes” pastor’s wife.  

I have read that Mother’s Day is the third most celebrated holiday in the world behind Christmas and Easter. Given that reality, let’s find creative and compassionate ways to make Mother’s Day meaningful for all women, and honor the God who sees them. 

Chris Philbeck serves as pastor of Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Ind. During his 40 years of ministry Chris has had the privilege of planting a church, leading a turnaround church, and now a megachurch. This is a special online-only edition of the bimonthly Preach column that Chris writes for Christian Standard. 

1 Comment

  1. Bill Vandervoort

    Thanks, Chris. Thought-provoking and helpful. God bless you and your wife.

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