Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.
Most gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world hostile to Your Holy Word, hostile to Your Only Son and hostile to His redeemed people. We beseech You, keep us and our children and our grandchildren in Your protecting arms until we are all gathered into our inheritance which You have provided through our Savior. Amen.
+In the Name of Jesus+
I have a very tough question for you this morning, a question that may cause you as parents and grandparents some discomfort. Will you be able to say with Isaiah on the Day of Judgment: “Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me” with a clear conscience, knowing you have spared no expense, spared no effort, spared no amount of time to instruct your children in the absolute truth God’s Word? Can you say that you have always given your children an example of a godly and holy and Christian life?
If you are a parent or have been a parent, you know how difficult parenting is and the temptations that go with it to give up. While God does give us clear direction on Christian parenting, we are sinful people dealing with sinful offspring. Our best intentions often do not go as we had planned. We come to realize, often much to our dismay, that our children are individuals with minds of their own which can be a good thing but also may not be so good.
Now add to this the special challenges of Christian parenting and especially Christian motherhood. Christian motherhood brings with it a special set of criteria. Now I am going to tell you something you already know. Christian mothers, who want to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord face a culture which is hostile and counter to what they want to teach their children. We and our children encounter the teaching of godless evolution at every level of public education. This in turn spawns the other evils of our day: abortion on demand, a hatred of anything moral, same-sex marriage which is a direct challenge to the Biblical institution of one man and one woman. I could go on but you already know what our culture today is all about.
In the face of this culture, our Christian mothers in particular need comfort, encouragement and above all they need to know that their shortcomings and faults are covered in the blood of Jesus. Children are pledges of married love. Christian mothers need encouragement to know that their Children are marvels of God’s creative omnipotence (Psalm 139: 13-16). Christian mothers need to know that they have a Savior too. This morning I hope to do just that as we consider:
The eternal importance (blessing) of a Christian mother.
In regard to Baptism.
First of all, Christian mothers have the blessing of baptism. They can watch with joy as their infant children are baptized, trusting that God will do what He promises in Holy Baptism. That promise is in the Apostle Peter’s Pentecost sermon: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” In a culture where children are not only spiritually neglected but aborted, this is a special blessing for Christian mothers in particular. They spent nine months knowing that they were cradling the precious creation of God in their wombs. Now the Christian mother can rejoice that the Lord has smiled on her infant in the water and the Word. The Christian mother can say, “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.”
In regard to instruction:
However, Christian mothers not only have baptism but the gift of teaching their children God’s Word. Teaching God’s Word is a sacred duty. Luther once wrote in regard to the spiritual instruction, “Nothing can more easily earn hell for a man than the improper training of his own children; and parents can perform no more damaging bit of work than to neglect their offspring, to let them curse, swear, learn indecent words and songs, permit them to live as they please.” God considers the spiritual training of children the most important task of parents and mothers. The LORD God set this priority before the children of Israel:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6: 6-9)
God has not changed His mind about this priority in light of our culture today, indeed, this priority is necessary today more than ever and commanded by God. This is the “One thing Needful” of which our hymn speaks of this morning:
One thing needful! This one Treasure teach me Savior to esteem.
Other things may promise pleasure, But are never what they seem.
They prove to be burdens that vex us and chafe us,
And true lasting happiness never vouch-safe us;
This one precious treasure, that all else exceeds,
Gives joy above measure and fills all my needs.
To fathers in particular Paul wrote: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” As the helpmeet to the Christian father, this also applies to the Christian mother. But our Lord does not simply give us a command just to see if mothers will obey. There is an eternal and divine purpose in giving this instruction to teach little children; a joyful purpose that goes to the salvation of their souls.
Interestingly the apostle Paul says something astounding about little children: “From infancy you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” “From infancy.” Studies have shown that mothers that talk to their babies, expressing their own emotions, are far less prone to depression and anxiety. How much greater is talking about Jesus to the infant? That talking begins in the womb as John the Baptizer leaped in the womb at the voice of Mary the mother of Jesus.
St. Paul was speaking of the mother and grandmother of Timothy when he wrote the above words. The Christian mother has the joy of speaking the message of Christ into the hearts and souls of their infant children trusting that the LORD will keep that infant in His shepherding arms. She is armed with the words of Solomon, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” On the Day of Judgment, the Christian mother stands before the Lord and says, “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.”
In regard to prayer.
The Christian mother not only has Baptism and the sacred duty of spiritual instruction, she has the gift of prayer. The spiritual and Christian training of children is not for the faint of heart. Maybe that is why God had the Helpmate of Adam carry the child in her womb. First of all, the fathers need to keep the mother of their children constantly in prayer. The world and its philosophy are not an incubator for sound teaching and moral living. The world vehemently hates the Law of God and in hating the Law, they also hate Jesus since believing in Jesus means that the Law of God is valid and indites them in their sin and sinful lives.
But secondly, the Christian mother has been given the gift of prayer and access to the eternal Throne of her Savior. Her children will misbehave. This world can only offer psychological behavioral solutions which often contradict God’s word. But the Christian mother has prayer in which she can take her children to the highest court and the highest wisdom in all of Creation and lay before the Creator and the Savior the concerns, the hurts, the tribulations as well as the joys and comfort in being a Christian mother. As she takes her children to the Lord in prayer, she remembers the words of Isaiah: “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.”
In regard to repentance.
The Christian mother not only has Baptism, the duty to instruct and the gift of prayer, but she lives her life in repentance. Luther wrote “Our Lord…intended that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance.” Only the Christian mother is able to live that life. When she fails and falls in her God-given vocation, she has the promise from the Good Shepherd that her sins are forgiven.
So dear Christian mothers, those times you have neglected to be constant in prayer for your children both infant children and adult children, that sin is covered in the blood of Jesus. Those times you wanted to give up and set aside the cross the Lord has placed on motherhood in particular, Jesus died for that sin. Here is your comfort: the Lord knew you would fall, He knew you would fail, He knew you would sin but He stayed on that cross for those agonizing hours to forgive you and give you comfort in the most precious vocation of mom.
Sadly, your vocation is looked down on in the culture in which we live. Motherhood is thought to be for those who can’t do anything else. That is how the world looks at you. But know this: God sees you through the lens of His love; you are the caretaker of a little soul that in His wisdom and grace has brought into this world. Take comfort in the words of Isaiah: “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.” Covered as you are in the righteousness of Christ, you will stand before God on the Day of Judgment and hear your Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
One last word.
What about our children that have either back slidden or rejected the faith? I don’t think anything grieves a Christian parent or mother and grandparent more than to see her precious gift of children assailed by the devil and kept away from the Word and Sacraments. Luther had some advice here: “If children do not accept the Gospel, one should not for this reason leave or disown them; but one should take care of them and provide for them as for the very best of Christians; and their faith we should commit to God.” We may tend to agonize and think: “As a Christian parent, I could have done better; I could have done more; what did I do wrong; did I set the proper Christian example for them at all times.”
Look to the cross of Christ. Jesus knew you would fail, but again, knowing that full well, He stayed on the cross to forgive you whether you are a mother, a father, a grandparent or just a sinner. Perhaps we might take some comfort from the mother of Moses. As an infant, she set him in the water of the Nile and left the rest in the hands of God. It took 80 years before God called Moses to liberate the people of God. We have placed our infant children in the saving water of Holy Baptism. God has made a promise with us there, the promise of salvation. We also leave them in the hands of God.
Jesus set His table for those who fall and fail in their vocations. Jesus set His table for you who grieve and wonder if I did my best and wonder if I could have done more. Jesus washed away those failures and faults. Of all days, come and take of His holy body and blood which He wants you to receive for forgiveness. Then with a clear conscience and renewed joy and zeal, tell your children about Christ and His forgiveness; speak to them of the great and mighty wonders of God’s grace. Trust that God will accomplish His gracious will in them. And with Isaiah, say with penitential confidence “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me.” Go in peace.
Soli Deo Gloria