Valentine’s Day

Brothers and sisters,

By the time you’re reading this, Valentine’s Day will have come and gone. Flowers will have been bought, expensive dinners paid for, and chocolates exchanged (though remember that these days are known as “70% Off Chocolate Days”). Every year, there’s always a big to-do about what a person is going to get for their significant other, but there’s also a big to-do about folks rejecting Valentine’s Day.

This year, apparently, has been big on that, with Etsy reporting that searches for “anti-Valentine’s Day” products are up 14% compared to last year. But there’s an even bigger jump for “anti-Valentine’s Day” T-shirts—up 34% from 2023. Now, I’d be lying if I said that some of the stuff isn’t funny. Some shirts declare, “Not today, Cupid.” Others with a masked man advising folks, “Love is in the air; try not to breathe.” Perhaps my favorite, “Who needs valentines when you could have tacos?” And I get it. Valentine’s Day can feel sugary-sweet, syrupy, saccharine. It has been heavily commercialized (again, you can find chocolate for 70% off today—never pay full price!). But let me tell you one of the legends about St. Valentine, the man this holiday is named after.

According to legend, there was a Roman priest named Valentinus who lived during the 3rd century AD, well before Christianity would be tolerated within the Roman Empire. He was arrested during the reign of the Roman emperor Gothicus and was held in custody by an aristocrat named Asterius. Asterius was curious about some of the things Valentinus believed and so he would go and talk with the Christian. Valentinus told him about some of the missions other Christians had been on, spreading the good news, and converting people all over the ancient world. In particular, Valentinus talked about Christ as the “light of truth and salvation.” So, Asterius made a bargain with Valentinus—he would convert to Christianity if Valentinus could heal his daughter’s blindness. Reportedly, Valentinus put his hands over her eyes and chanted, “Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.” With that, Asterius’ daughter could see and Asterius and his entire family converted to Christianity.

It is true that the modern story of Valentine’s Day is one of flowers and chocolates and fancy dinners. It is also true that it is the story of anti-Valentine’s Day merch—with yet another shirt I saw declaring, “Ew, Valentine’s Day.” But it is also true that Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love that God gifts to all of us. The love that we have toward our significant others has its roots in God. The love we have for friends and neighbors has its roots in God. The love Valentinus had for God and for everyone he met was so deeply rooted in God, that even his own jailer’s daughter would be healed by it. I think that’s something to celebrate.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Ben