The Pastor's Peace - February, 2011
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It’s that time of year again--the time we get our dinner reservations, order the flowers, buy the chocolate, and maybe even purchase a cute teddy bear. Now some husbands or boyfriends might be wondering why they need flowers and a teddy bear to watch the Super Bowl, but they will realize probably 8 days later, that February has something else significant besides football. Of course, I’m talking about Valentine’s Day, a day for love, romance, and making up for past mistakes, like forgetting it was Valentine’s Day last year.

This is a very important and old holiday. First started in the year 500 by Pope Gelasius I, this day commemorates St. Valentine. However, which St. Valentine we celebrate on that day is in question. It turns out there are several candidates. There was the martyr Valentine of Rome, then there was Valentine of Terni, and even perhaps a third Valentine martyred somewhere in Northern Africa. To make matters even more confusing, it turns out that Valentine’s Day had absolutely nothing to do with love and romance until the 14th century. At that time Chaucer wrote a poem that linked romance to the holiday by commemorating the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. Chaucer wasn’t even talking about the Valentine of February 14th, but rather yet another St. Valentine, the Bishop of Genoa, who was celebrated on May 2nd. Perhaps all this confusion is the reason that Pope Paul VI deleted it from the Roman calendar of the saints in 1969, or maybe he just received one too many valentines that year.
Regardless of the lack of history, the many St. Valentines, and its varied past, Valentine’s Day is currently seen as a holiday of love, plain and simple. In fact it has become so popular that it has spread to countries with little Christian background, and is one of the more popular holidays worldwide. In Iran, for instance, there was even a ban against valentines and teddy bears around Valentine’s Day, because some in power thought it was anti-Islamic. I can only imagine what the teddy bear black market was like.

Despite being dropped from the Roman calendar of saints, and bans on valentines, this holiday continues to grow and to be celebrated. Perhaps the reason it is popular now has nothing to do with cards, or saints, or teddy bears, but rather something more basic-- love.

Valentine’s Day is a free pass to express your love to someone. This would seem to be a common event, but often we see expressions of affection as something that make us vulnerable or even weak. Christ himself was thought to be weak because of his continued emphasis of love, rather than conquest or vindication. What kind of messiah, Son of God, would let himself die on a cross, beaten and humiliated? As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, let us think not only about the love we have for those close to us, but also remember the love universal that God has for all of us. Every day is a good day to show your love for each other, every day is the day to forgive and love one another as Christ did. If you do that, every day can be a Valentine’s Day, and we might just realize how loved we are, teddy bear or not.

Will you be my valentine?

Pastor Brian