I almost gave up celebrating holidays.
If you have been reading along on my journey, you are well aware of my souring relationship with society and the commercialization that attaches itself to almost everything we do. Being pulled along on a tidal wave of candy hearts and over-sized stuffed animals felt like one more fake story told to trick me into spending money to prove my love.
I was tempted to throw every single holiday in the rubble with all the other things I used to do for no apparent reason.
But something inside my soul held me back just long enough to reconsider. Someone tugged at my heart, gently whispering that there is more to the story. Somehow I learned that after a season of letting go comes a season of picking up only what is true and right and meaningful.
Letting go of meaningless distractions created space and time to shut out the noise of the world for awhile and ask why. Why all the fuss? Why the chocolate and cards and flowers and cupids? Obviously, we all know love is important, but we already celebrate anniversaries and birthdays and such. Why is this day set aside, dripping in red and pink hearts?
As I have stopped to ask why at every major celebration over the past year, I have found the most beautiful truth. The kind of truth I should have known but glossed over for so long.
Holiday = Holy Day
We see examples of God commanding the people to stop what they’re doing and celebrate all over the Bible, back to the earliest pages of the Old Testament. Why? So that we never forget what He has done for us. So that we will remember to praise Him, certainly, but also to use that proof to build hope in His promises yet to come. So that we have the opportunity to teach our children about His almighty power to save us.
“Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. ~Exodus 12:24-27 (NIV)
When I give my children candy and a valentine, can I answer the question, “What does this ceremony mean to you?”
I have been so pleasantly surprised to find that behind every holy day turned holiday, there is a saint of Christianity standing firm waving the banner of true love. Saint Valentine’s Day is no exception. In fact, it’s very purpose is rooted in the deepest form of love. It’s a story we all know to be so true that we re-create it in every great love story ever told. It’s what keeps me glued to the couch during Bruce Willis’ final scene in Armageddon and Mufasa’s final fall in The Lion King. It’s the reality that true love is passionate to the point of sacrifice, even if that means death.
It doesn’t get any more clear than the words and perfect example of my Savior, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
~John 15:13 (NIV)
I didn’t know the real story of Saint Valentine until last week. He was a priest during a time when an emperor had declared an edict against marriage because he didn’t want his soldiers distracted by love. St. Valentine knew the vital importance of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, so he risked his life to marry couples in secret. He was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually brutally martyred. His last words were written to a girl he had healed of blindness while in jail, which he signed, “Your Valentine.” What amazes me about Saint Valentine was that he didn’t die just for his own storybook ending. He died for the sake of Christ, for Christian love, for those couples oppressed by an unreasonable edict. He did it for us, those he would never even meet, to have a chance to experience the power of Christ through the gift of marriage.
Those little candy hearts have a lot to live up to.
Sometimes it just blows my mind. The way I have been so distracted as to ignore what it’s all about, yet Christ is still there if I only seek Him. His fingerprints are everywhere; He is in the midst of literally everything I do. I must be careful in my quest for truth to only throw away the commercialism, not the purpose and the actual celebration of the holy days.
I pray we can all look into the eyes of our valentines today knowing exactly what we’re celebrating, why we are so grateful for the gift of love and marriage, and confident that true love conquers even death. Thank you, St. Valentine, for your valiant sacrifice to prove it to us. Thank you, Jesus, for the greatest love story ever told. May we never forget.
Today’s musical inspiration is brought to you by one of my favorite love songs, I Won’t Give Up, by Jason Mraz. Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
You can read more here about the real meaning behind St. Valentine’s Day.