When February 14th rolls around each year people make much ado about giving cards and gifts to the sweethearts in their lives. How can you convey to your congregation the real love that this holiday was originally intended to celebrate?
Two-hundred and fifty years or so after Jesus was born, during the reign of Emperor Claudius, there was a priest living in Rome named Valentinus. Claudius issued a royal edict outlawing weddings in the Roman Empire, believing unmarried men made for better soldiers. This earned him the nick-name, Claudius the Cruel.
Valentinus who continued to marry young couples was arrested and sentenced to die. Legend has it that his prison guard’s blind daughter who visited the prisoner often, was miraculously healed through Valentinus’ prayers.
On the day Valentine was to die, February 14th, he left for the prison guard’s daughter a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, “With Love from your Valentine.”
That began the custom of exchanging love notes that we now call getting a Valentine. And although the original intent of these notes of love has been lost over the ages you can use this teachable moment in time to tell your church the story and give honor the man who gave his life for God and for love.
Leveraging Valentine’s Day in the Church
When she was single and not dating anyone at the time, my young adult daughter would refer to Valentine’s day as “Single Awareness Day” (SAD). It was then that I began sharing the story of the historic Valentinus and his note of love and appreciation to his jailer’s daughter which started the Valentine tradition.
I got to thinking that there were others who surely feel SAD at the coming of Valentine’s Day and who are left out because they, for whatever reason don’t have a sweetheart. Widows and widowers came to mind.
Each year a few days before February 14th, I would send a card to all who had lost their loved ones, affirming in them that they are still loved and remembered by their church. Often the card would consist of an acrostic of VALENTINE which incorporates the words of John 3:16 in them. I would add at the bottom of the card:
God SO loves you…
and so does your church family.
Over the years the people who received those cards have told me how much they appreciated them and that the church’s “Valentine” reaffirmed to them what love was really all about.
In the same vein, sending a note or an e-card on the anniversary of the death of a spouse, is a confirming reminder that the one who remains is truly loved by God and by their church family.
It’s always amazed me how much goodwill can be generated by a simple act such as this.