Well today is Valentines Day. And tonight we will have a valentine’s banquet. But just where does this holiday come from? Well I am glad you asked.
It is widely believed that Valentine’s Day, originated as a liturgical feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr, or perhaps two. So, how did we get from beheading to betrothing on Valentine’s Day?
Ancient sources reveal that there were several St. Valentines who died on Feb. 14. Two of them were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus in 269-270 A.D., at a time when persecution of Christians was common. We know this because of the study done by the Belgian monks known as the Bollandists.
Here is what they have found. The earliest Valentinus is said to have died in Africa, along with 24 soldiers. Unfortunately, even the Bollandists could not find any more information about him. As the monks knew, sometimes all that the saints left behind was a name and day of death.
We know only a little more about the other two Valentines.
According to a late medieval legend reprinted in the “Acta,” a Roman priest named Valentinus was arrested during the reign of Emperor Gothicus and put into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius.
As the story goes, Asterius made the mistake of letting the preacher talk. Father Valentinus went on and on about Christ leading pagans out of the shadow of darkness and into the light of truth and salvation. Asterius made a bargain with Valentinus: If the Christian could cure Asterius’s foster-daughter of blindness, he would convert. Valentinus put his hands over the girl’s eyes and chanted: “Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.”
And just like that the child could see. Asterius and his whole family were baptized. But when Emperor Gothicus heard the news, he ordered them all to be executed.
But Valentinus was the only one to be beheaded. A pious widow, though, made off with his body and had it buried at the site of his martyrdom on the Via Flaminia, the ancient highway stretching from Rome to present-day Rimini. Later, a chapel was built over the saint’s remains.
The third third-century Valentinus was a bishop of Terni in the province of Umbria, Italy.
Much like our earlier Valentinus we saw he also got into a situation like the other Valentinus by debating a potential convert and afterward healing his son. The rest of story is quite similar as well: He too, was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Gothicus and his body buried along the Via Flaminia.
So as you can see weather it was the African, Roman or Umbrian, none of the Valentines seems to have been a romantic. So how did we end up celebrating a day of love and happiness?
So how did end up being about gushy mushy love. Well if you ever took English lit you would find the answer in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
It was he who decreed the February feast of St. Valentinus to the mating of birds. He wrote in his “Parlement of Foules”: “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” It seems that, in Chaucer’s day, English birds paired off to produce eggs in February.
It wasn’t long after that the European nobility began sending love notes during bird-mating season. For example, the French Duke of Orléans, who spent some years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, wrote to his wife in February 1415 that he was “already sick of love” (by which he meant lovesick.) And he called her his “very gentle Valentine.”
English audiences embraced the idea of February mating. Shakespeare’s love struck Ophelia spoke of herself as Hamlet’s Valentine.
Now there is also the story that St. Valentine says "remind Christians of God's love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians," Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians, a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on Saint Valentine's Day.
In the following centuries, Englishmen and women began using Feb. 14 as an excuse to pen verses to the ones they loved. Industrialization made it easier with mass-produced illustrated cards with poems of love. Then along came Cadbury, Hershey’s, and other chocolate manufacturers marketing sweets for one’s sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. And there we are today.
But today let us look at love from a Biblical view. There are so many passages of scripture that we could choose from but this morning our text will come from 1 John 4:19. It is very short but full of so meaning that we have to look at it. Again our test will come from 1 John 4:19. If you have your bibles please turn there and in a moment we will look at it.
But before we do let me remind you that John was most likely up in years when he wrote this. He was writing to all Christians which would include the Jews who had accepted Christ as the Messiah and Gentiles alike.
Okay let’s take a look at our scripture again we will be reading from 1 John 4:19. Please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. Here is what it says: We love Him because He first loved us. And all Gods people said? Amen. Thanks you may be seated.
Did you know that there are some translations of the Bible that actually leave out the word Him? Now I find that interesting. Of course we know the Him to which John is speaking is Christ Jesus himself. And one of the ways we know that is because the word him is capitalized.
So here we discover that we know love because Jesus has shown his love for us. In fact it goes all the way back to the creation of the world.
In the Gospel of John we read in chapter 1 verse 1 through 4 this: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
It is right here that we find Jesus with God at the very beginning of creation where life itself was created. John verifies that Jesus is the light that we learn to love through.
But it is later in that same chapter where we truly begin to see just how much he loved us. In verse 14 you will recall that John states: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
So we have seen that Jesus was there at the beginning and we see now that he came to live among us. Well fine and dandy. But what does that have to do with love? Friends it has everything to do with it.
Let’s back up a bit into the Bible and check out man. We all can recount the story of Adam and Eve and how they blew it back in the Garden. Okay hang with me for a minute here. Now to be sure we don’t know how long they had been in the garden before they sinned, but we can easily surmise that it was pretty early in their lives.
Now from our earlier scripture we know Jesus was there when they were created. So how come he doesn’t pull dad to the side and say hey dad let’s give them a second chance, I mean after all it was Satan’s fault. I will tell you why. You see Jesus himself would become that second chance.
Or how about when God got fed up with the world and decided to flood it? But again Jesus was there. Now I am not saying that it was Jesus that convinced God to spare Noah, but make no mistake he was there.
And then when Saul wanted Jonathan and the soldiers to kill David what happened? Jonathan warns David and he is able to escape unharmed. And guess what Jesus was there.
Now you may be sitting there saying Brother Dave that is all Old Testament stories and they just don’t mean as much today. Well first of all I would remind you that it is still part of God’s holy word so yes it does matter.
But let’s take a look at some New Testament stories for a moment as well.
I know you remember how Jesus himself cured the Centurions servant from Palsy in Matthew 8. And of course you know how Jesus calmed the storm in Mark when he was sleeping in the small boat but the disciples thought they were about to be capsized and drowned. And how could you forget the raising of Lazarus in John?
Now you may be wondering why I am bringing up all these different Old and New Testament stories. Just what do they have to do with Valentines Day? I mean after all that is how I started the sermon right? Talking about how this holiday came about.
Well if you have a bulletin pick it up and look at the title of this morning’s sermon. It’s called; “How do we love like Jesus?”
Now to be sure none of were there when God created the world like He was. And none of us have ever performed a miracle like He did.
But I want you to consider David and Jonathan once again. In 1st Samuel 18:1 we read this: Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
How many of you truly love someone as much as you love your own self? Jesus does.
And now let’s consider the story of Lazarus once again. You may recall that when they arrive in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days. And before they enter the town, Martha, Lazarus' sister, comes to meet Jesus and tells him: "if you had been here, my brother would not have died". Jesus assures Martha that her brother will rise again and states: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Martha's answers him by stating that she does indeed believe, " Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Now I kind of doubt that you have ever raised someone from the dead, but Jesus did.
So WHY? Why did Jesus perform all these miracles? It’s simple, it’s because He Loved us. You have heard me and others before refer to Jesus as the Suffering Servant. If you want to love like Jesus start serving Like Jesus. It really is that simple. So with that said Happy Valentines Day, and remember that I love you and love serving here at Holly Springs.
Pray as led.