A Mother’s Love, Contextualized

This Sunday (at least in the 3-year Revised Common Lectionary, adjusted-somewhat-arbitrarily-by-Lutherans-version) we observe the Presentation of our Lord.  (Luke 2:21-28).  Jesus is almost six weeks old at this point.  Mary has waited the appropriate amount of time (Leviticus 12) to have Jesus circumcised and then to await her time of ritual uncleanliness.  Now she and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple.  

The Old Testament reading is from 1 Samuel 1 and is the story of another mother and another first-born son.  Another journey and another sacrifice.  The details are similar but different.  Hannah rather than Mary.  Shiloh rather than the Temple in Jerusalem.  Samuel rather than Jesus.  But the intentions are the same.  In keeping with God’s commands in Exodus 13, the two mothers bring their sons to the God who gave them their sons.  
Hannah had prayed for a child for a long time.  Mary conceived quite unexpectedly.  Like every other Hebrew child since the Exodus, God required that parents redeem them from his service.  Hannah goes to offer Samuel to remain in God’s service, as she had promised God.  Mary goes to redeem her son from such service.  Yet both children will grow into men who serve God with all of their lives.
Both scenes demonstrate the proper context of all motherly (and fatherly) love – the acknowledgement of God as the source of all life.  The understanding that every child is a gift from God to be cherished and nourished.  All things have a proper source, and the proper source of children is never solely the intentions or actions of a man and a woman, but rather the divine mystery of God’s purpose and plan.  
When we forget these things, when we begin to treat children as any other commodity or object in our life – something to be acquired or gotten rid of, something ultimately for our own purpose and pleasure, the natural order is subverted.  Life becomes trivialized.  We forget that there is a larger plan at play than our own personal preferences.  
We love because God first loved us.  Because God is before we are.  And because God is before we are, we trust rather than respond in fear.  We cry out in the anticipation of strength we never expected to possess.  We give praise where the praise is properly due – to the one who began it all with the Word in nothingness, and who brings it all to completion with the Word made flesh and alive where once He had been dead, ruling where once He had been subservient.  Because of (in part) a mother’s love in the proper context.

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