Case in Point


This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Singing in the Shower: Mother’s Day 2014

 May is our month to remember. This May, Singing in the Shower will remember our mothers and our military. In the next two segments I will look at how both the Biblical Songbook and the American Songbook look at moms and majors. While neither Mother’s Day nor Memorial Day is a biblical holiday, these two civic celebrations of important people in our lives have biblical antecedents. Both celebrations, one a national holiday held on Monday and the other a national observance held on a Sunday, originated through the efforts of women in the Confederate states of the South. Mother’s Day comes first in the calendar and so it comes for us. In the Biblical Songbook, it is hard to find a better mother worth emulating than Hannah, whose piety raises her to the front ranks of women. There is too little time here to tell the complete story of Hannah, whose very name means “grace,” but her pained-godliness was that she had a barren womb for years, a condition she brought before Yahweh in persevering prayer. It has always been a natural condition for a married woman to be pregnant with child. Even the loose-moralled Bathsheba could announce to the adulterous David “I am pregnant” (2 Samuel 11:5) only a 100 years after Hannah. While she was without child, Hannah suffered the reproach and mocking of those around her. It was not then, nor is it now, easy for a wife to be unable to conceive. During this fallow period, Hannah promised to dedicate a son to the Lord’s service, if God would so bless. Finally, “in the course of time” God did “remember her” and gave Hannah Samuel. After Samuel’s birth, Hannah was faithful to her vow and she gave her first-born to full-time service of the Lord in a distant town. Covenantally, this giving back of one’s children to the Lord is expected of all Christian mothers (and fathers) (Ex. 22:29), but there was great emotional risk for Hannah. As is often the case, after years of barrenness, God filled Hannah’s quiver with 5 more children after Samuel. In one of the most tender of all parental gestures in the Bible, it is recorded that Hannah “made Samuel a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice (1 Samuel 2:19). The lessons to be learned from Hannah are many, but preeminent today is that she was a praying mother, a faithful wife and an obedient follower of Jehovah. Her extraordinary psalm after dedicating Samuel to the Lord in 1 Samuel 2 prefigures Mary’s Magnificant in Luke 1 where she rejoices in Yahweh’s sense of justice and mercy, and providential care over the human race generally, and her, specifically. The Church through the ages has recognized the critical value of a godly home in her hymns which tell of a mother (and father) who faithfully and dutifully raise their children and create a home-life of piety and safety. One such hymn is “Blest the Man Who Fears Jehovah,” based on Psalm 128 and written in 1912. It includes these words: “In your wife, you shall have gladness, she shall fill your home with good, happy in her loving service and the joys of mother-hood. Joyful children, sons and daughters, shall about your table meet, olive plants, in strength and beauty, full of hope and promise sweet.” Turning to the American Songbook, we change the atmosphere a bit as we look at Harry Von Tilzer, called “The Man who Launched a Thousand Hits,” who was a pioneer in the American Songbook, publishing million-copy-sellers at the turn of the 20th century. One of his most popular songs in the early history of Tin Pan Alley was “I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad” written in 1911. Here is that golden chestnut, sung by the man once known as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” – Al Jolson: (“I want a Girl just like the Girl who Married Dear Old Dad” performed by Al Jolson) Not all mothers are going to be Hannah. And we Christian men may not want to marry someone like “the girl that married dear old dad.” Marriage and motherhood are supremely important roles for women, and no more so than in today’s cultural environment. The burden to be a godly mother stretches the capabilities of any Christian woman. But our society, born and bred in the broth of biblical biology, continues to belatedly recognize the nuclear family, and the mothers in that family. We in the Church can do no less. And we Christian husbands and fathers and sons need to do much more. So let’s celebrate the mothers among us this May.  This is Bob Case for “Singing in the Shower: The American Songbook and the Church”


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