Submitted by Pastor David Wynn, First Christian Church, Tarkio, Mo.
Valentine’s Day is this week.
A wonderful holiday, celebrated in many different ways around the world, and steeped in tradition.
Here are just a few:
Hundreds of years ago in England, many children dressed up as adults on Valentine’s Day. They went singing from home to home. One verse they sang was: Good morning to you, Valentine; Curl your locks as I do mine – Two before and three behind. Good morning to you, Valentine.
In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favorite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, “You unlock my heart!”
In the Middle Ages young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week. Today, to wear your heart on your sleeve means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.
Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day it meant that she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.
Think of five or six names of boys and girls you might marry. Grab an apple, and then twist the stem, reciting the names until the stem breaks off. You would marry the person whose name you were saying when the stem breaks off. Or you could pick a dandelion that has gone to seed, take a deep breath, and blow the seeds into the wind. Then count the seeds that remain on the stem, and that’s how many children you would have.
Although there are many stories about the origin of Valentine’s Day, here is one that’s true: In the ancient city of Rome, about 200 years after the resurrection of our Lord, there lived a humble and gentle man. His name was . . . Valentine. His clothes were not as fine as a nobleman’s, and he did not live in a palace.
He resided in a small dwelling in a crowded part of the city, and was a doctor who practiced in a small second room of his home. In that room stood a cabinet full of bowls and jars that held many herbs and powders. There were also jugs of milk and honey that he mixed with his medicines so that they would not taste bitter. When the ill or injured came to see Valentine, he would show them into his tiny room, and treat them. He cleaned wounds with wine and vinegar, and bandaged them with fresh cloths. Often he ground up herbs and roots in a small bowl so to ease a visitor’s pain. When it came time for payment, Valentine would accept only what was offered: Perhaps a jug of wine, baked bread, maybe a new pair of sandals. If the patient had nothing, that was OK, too. He would tell them, “It was but a few herbs, and prayer, my friend, that have healed you.”
Now, prayer was an important part of life in Rome. While most of the Roman citizens prayed to Roman gods, Valentine, along with many others called “Christians,” prayed to only one God. And they had to be secretive about it. Although their group continued to grow, they were hated and persecuted because of their faith. Whenever tragedy befell anyone in the city, the Christians were always blamed, always the scapegoat, usually thrown into prison or executed. One afternoon a man with a small child came to Valentine’s door. This man was one of the jailers in the Roman Emperor’s prison. Valentine took the young girl’s hand, and led her into his examining room. She seemed well enough, but upon closer examination Valentine realized that the child was blind. The jailer explained that his daughter had been blind since birth, and well . . . “Valentine . . . can you help? Can you give her the world she has never seen?” Valentine’s faith was strong, so he took down a copper box from his cabinet and dabbed a little of the wet, waxy paste inside on the child’s eyes. “Bring her again next week,” he told the jailer, “and I will give her more.” That night, like every night, Valentine prayed for his patients. The father and daughter came back week after week for treatment, but the child’s eyes remained sightless.
After so many visits the three became good friends. Often Valentine would take the girl with him as he gathered herbs and plants for his medicines. While Valentine gathered his supplies, the girl gathered yellow and orange crocuses to give to her father when Valentine brought her home.
It was on a cool February day that soldiers of the Roman guard came to Valentine’s door and arrested him for being a Christian. They destroyed everything he had, smashing all his jars of ointments and powders, and then they threw him into a dark, cold, Roman cell. When the jailer came, he cried upon seeing Valentine there, but could do nothing to help. Valentine took a piece of papyrus and wrote a message for the jailer to give to his daughter. When the jailer returned home on that sad day, he handed his daughter the rolled piece of paper. “What does it say?” the daughter asked. “From your Valentine,” her father read. Slowly the child held up the crocus blossom that was in her hand, and for the first time watched its color dazzle like the rays of the afternoon sun.
Valentine was executed on February 14th, 270 A.D. In A.D. 496 Pope Gelasius 1 named February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day.
A young boy happened upon an old man who was fishing in the mighty Mississippi River. Immediately the lad began to ply the aged fisherman with a myriad of questions as only young boys can do. With the patience of the ages, the old man answered each query. Suddenly their conversation was interrupted by the shrill whistle of the majestic steamboat, “The River Queen,” paddling relentlessly down river. The sight of the ship gleaming and splashing spray in the sunlight caused the surprised spectators to stare in awe and appreciation. Then above the noise of the paddle wheel was heard a small boy’s voice calling across the water; “Let me ride! Let me ride!” The old man turned to the boy and tried to calm him down explaining that the River Queen was too important a ship to stop and give rides to little boys. The young child cried all the more, “Let me ride!”
Old eyes bulged in disbelief as that great ship pulled for shore and a gangplank was lowered. In a flash two young feet scampered up and onto the deck. The ship with its new cargo safely on board began to pull back into the main stream. The old man continued to stare after the ship.
Then a shock of yellow hair appeared above the rail. It was quickly followed by two blue eyes, button nose, and cherub lips. And the young child cried out to the old man on the shore . . . “Mister, I knew this ship would stop for me. You see, the captain is my father!”
Whether they are river boat captains or gentle Christians like Valentine, there will always be saints that open up their arms for us, with compassion, guidance, and . . . love.
This has been the word of God for this day. Thanks Be to God.