Since the 16th century it was custom for people to return home to their ‘mother’ church, the church where they’d been baptised, in the middle of Lent. Those who did so were said to have gone ‘a-mothering’, hence Mothering Sunday. In some English parishes the custom of “clipping the church” was carried out, the congregation linked hands and formed a circle around the church, effectively giving the building a hug!
I’m reminded of a quote from Augustine: “You can’t have God as Father without having church as mother”. That presents you and I with a challenge, how highly do you think of the church? View it as your mother or can you take it or leave it? Is it precious to you? Do you love the church of Jesus Christ?
In time the day turned into a family reunion and a rare chance for children working away from home to spend time with their mothers. As folk walked to church, many used to pick spring flowers from the verges along the way to hand to their mothers when they got home, hence the connection of giving flowers.
Of course, you can’t sell anything on that basis and a visit to the shops will show how things have changed! An American lady Ann Jarvis who popularised Mother’s Day in the states and it soon followed on this side of the Atlantic. Interestingly, Jarvis would later become increasingly concerned at the commercialisation of the day: “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” Apparently she disapproved of the use of greetings cards which she described as “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write”.
It’s right that we thank God for our mothers and pray that God would strengthen and encourage those who care for families. We shouldn’t don’t forget the origins of the day and remember that God the Father has incorporated his children into a new family, the church which cares for us as a mother.