The True Meaning of Valentine’s Day

The treats Grace and I made for her party: pink pretzels.

I began the celebration of Valentine’s Day yesterday by preaching on adultery and divorce. (Gotta love the Lectionary!) In about an hour I will continue the celebration by hanging out with a classroom full of first-graders who are ingesting way too much sugar.

For now, though, I want to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. Valentine’s day is not really about those cute little cards (though I love those.) It’s not really about getting flowers from the one you love–or feeling awful because you don’t have anyone to send you flowers. Valentine’s day isn’t even about chocolate. (That’s not to say I won’t accept chocolate as a Valentine’s gift.)

At the root of this celebration of love is St. Valentine, a 3rd-Century priest. Valentine was arrested and imprisoned under the regime of Claudius II after he was caught marrying Christians. That’s right, because of persecution, Christians were not legally allowed to marry each other. But Valentine married them anyway.

I can’t help but draw a parallel with a particular persecuted group today, and with those priests and pastors who officiate at weddings that are not technically allowed.

Maybe it’s a leap–or at least a hop. But surely holding up courageous same-sex couples and the pastors who marry them is more in the spirit of St. Valentine than dyeing pretzel dough pink and shaping it into hearts. (See accompanying photo.)

So this Valentine’s Day, I send special love and good wishes to the many same-sex couples who are making their committed relationships work. And I am grateful to the many other pastors and priests who will conduct wedding ceremonies for all healthy, committed Christian couples. (And I am glad that such pastors, while they may face consequences, are no longer in danger of being stoned and beheaded by the government.)

This Valentine’s Day, I am praying the misunderstanding and persecution will end soon. That Christians will begin to care less about the sexuality of the people in a marriage, and more about the the quality, the Christ-likeness, of people’s love for each other.

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all.

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