Many of us do that by taking our wives or girlfriends out for dinner. Or, by sending flowers or chocolates to the one we love.
And then there are the cards. I read somewhere just the other day that 150 million valentines are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.
Speaking of Valentine’s Day cards, St. Valentine himself is said to have sent the first “valentine” — from prison, of all places!
Through the years, there have been a number of stories that have been passed along regarding the origin of this day when we celebrate love. The one that seems to be the most consistent is the one about a priest in the early church in Rome by the name of Valentinus.
Valentinus, or Valentine, as we know him, lived during the third century A.D. when Claudius II was the Roman emperor. Claudius was no friend of Christians and persecuted them quite frequently. Claudius had handed down an edict at that time that prohibited soldiers from marrying. This was based on his reasoning that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what could happen to their families if they died in battle.
Valentine, realizing the injustice of the edict, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. As you might expect, the emperor found out about Valentine’s disobedience and sentenced him to prison and death.
It was while he was in prison, legend says, that Valentine himself fell in love with the daughter of the jailer, who apparently often visited him during his confinement. This murky legend — obviously shrouded in mystery from a time long, long ago — alleges that, before his death, Valentine wrote her a letter signed “from your Valentine.” Ironically, that expression is still in use today!
You’ve got to admit, it is quite a romantic story and no doubt gained popularity as time went by. It wasn’t long before St. Valentine became the patron saint of love, and we still celebrate his heroic love today.
Love is a wonderful thing. I can hardly imagine a world without love. Most of us have been blessed by the love of another person — hopefully, by the love a number of people! I know I have. My life has been touched by the love of my wife, my parents, grandparents, brother and sister, cousins, and some unbelievably wonderful friends. I would be a very different person without the showers of love that have refreshed my life with such great joy.
Peter and Gordon sang a song I remember from my youth that said, “I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay in a world without love.” And, fortunately, we don’t have to. Yes, the news is filled with hatred and violence, but love is really far more prevalent than we might think.
Lots of everyday things are signs of the love all around us — smiles, hugs, kisses, kind words. Love radiates a warmth that is unmistakable. It’s not hard to detect. What it is really all about is a deep spirit of caring for another person. It is a marvelous thing to be loved, and to share love with another.
Love should be celebrated. It is one of the greatest attributes that we as humans have. And really, it is something we would not have except that God created us that way. God made us, the Bible says, “in His image” and “after His likeness.” (Genesis 1:26, 27) We are like God when we love. We love because He first loved us. (I John 4:19) The essence of God is love (I John 4:16) and, in His most gracious gesture of all, He shares that love with us!
God paints us a very vivid picture of what love is all about in that most well-known of all Bible verses: “God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God’s version of love is sacrificial, forgiving and unchanging. We can always count on God’s love and forgiveness. And now, God is also counting on you and me to love in the same way. “If God so loves us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:7)
Who will you show love to this Valentine’s Day, and beyond? Your wife, your girlfriend? Of course! But who else? Your expression of love could make a huge difference in someone’s life.
— By the Rev. John Koedyker, pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church, Grand Haven.