Happy St. Valentine's Day!
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of teaching Sunday School to our 6th-8th graders at church.
Although I initially balked at the idea, I've found that I really enjoy it. The children are eager to learn, they ask lots of questions and, amazingly, they listen really well.
I did, however, need to spend a fair amount of time preparing for this class. They had just finished up studying about the Christian martyrs and were moving onto Constantine. What an interesting time in the church's history!
This preparation, along with just general thoughts about Valentine's day, really made me think deeper about this day that we celebrate with candy and flowers. And, the more I internalized it, the more I realized that I've become side-tracked by all the glitz. So, let's have a little history lesson, shall we?
Before Constantine, the Christians received terrible persecution.
They were thrown into prison, burned alive, stoned, chopped into pieces, and served up to wild animals and gladiators as entertainment. They were harassed, ridiculed, and disowned by their own family and friends. To profess that you were a Christian meant that you were not afraid to face death. And, yet, through all this, the church grew.
We celebrate the martyrdom of many of these saints in our church still today.
St. Valentine or Valentinus was a Christian martyr. There are many details we do not not about this Valentinus, including when he was actually martyred. In fact, historians say that the Christians specifically chose February 14 for St. Valentine's day to oppose the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which was the very next day. Lupercalia was celebrated by Roman priests and was a fertility festival.
Now, there are a few things to mention about this that certainly pertain to our day and age.
First of all, why do we celebrate St. Valentine's Day?
My children certainly seem to think that this day is about hearts, and professing your love to someone, buying a girl flowers and eating chocolate.
For the Romans, it was about celebrating fertility. Women lining the streets, hoping to be blessed by the pagan priests with fertility. Can you imagine women lining the streets these days, hoping for the fertility gods to bless them? It's the opposite. I think some women are afraid to even come near me, because of how many children I've had. Fertility is no longer a blessing in our society.... it's a curse. So, instead of celebrating the pagan festival of fertility, we've changed it to a pagan festival of sexuality. It's a sensual day. And even our children grasp this in a small way. Why else do we eat candy hearts with "You're Hot" on them?
For the Christians, it was a day to celebrate the martyrdom of a saint. To remember that our faith in Christ is worth dying for. To know that the greatest gift anyone could ever receive was given to us on the cross in Jesus blood. That we are washed clean in his scarlet blood and given a white robe of righteousness in his baptism. These things are what we need to impress upon our children! Our love for one another is nice. But it's not perfect. It's not like Christ's love for us.
Now, I'm not suggesting you forget about handing out cards to people, making them gifts, etc. I just think we need to remember to teach our tender youth that there is a greater message that is lost in this day. The message that because of Christ forgiveness we are made whole.
"For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life" John 3:16
May you all have a wonderful day, marveling at the gifts which God has blessed you with.