Next week has a very special day coming. Do you know what it is? That’s right, Valentine’s Day. If a person is your Valentine that means they are the one you love the best! But I wonder if you know how it all began.
There was a priest by the name of Valentine. He lived in Rome about 250 AD. That was a long, long, time ago! At that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius. Some people called him Claudius the Cruel. Priest Valentine didn’t like Emperor Claudius, and he wasn’t the only one! A lot of people felt the same way. Claudius wanted a big army. He thought men should volunteer to join, but most of the men just did not want to fight in wars. They did not want to leave their wives and girlfriends, so not many men signed up to fight. This made Claudius mad. Do you know what he did then? He had a crazy idea that if men were not married, they would not mind joining his army. So Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages. Young people thought his new law was really cruel, and Priest Valentine thought it was ridiculous because one of his favorite jobs as a priest was to marry people.
Well, after Emperor Claudius passed his law, Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies. He would whisper the words of the ceremony while listening for soldiers on the steps outside. One night, he did hear footsteps. The couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught. He was thrown in jail and told that his punishment was death. Valentine tried to stay cheerful, and many young people came to the jail to visit him. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love. One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit him in his cell. They often sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing marriage ceremonies. On the day he was to die, Valentine left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, “Love from your Valentine.”
That note started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D. Now, every year on this day, people remember Valentine, who became known as “Saint Valentine.” But most importantly, they think about love and friendship. When they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh because they know that love can’t be stopped!
Love is very important. The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8), and 1 John 3:18 says, “My children, our love should not be only words and talk. Our love must be true love. And we should show that love by what we do.” God loves us more than anything, and we love Him as well. We can show His love by being kind and loving to our family, our friends, and those we meet. This Tuesday for Valentine’s Day, remember St. Valentine and how he died for the sake of love. Then remember even more God’s love for us – so much so that His Son died for us so we would be saved and go to heaven to live with Him. Tell those you love how much you care and appreciate them. Make or give them a valentine. Then don’t forget to tell God how much you love and appreciate Him also. I bet, He would love to get a Valentine from you too! And Happy Valentine’s Day to each and every one of you from me!
Let’s say a prayer together. Dear God, thank You for men and women like St. Valentine who never gave up on love. We know that You love us unconditionally. Help us to love others as You love us. In Your name we pray, Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church.