With December 25 and New Year’s out of the way, the shimmer of Christmas is replaced with the crimson flash of Valentine’s Day. Cupids and hearts dance in every store window, prepping for the buying and selling of another holiday. I don’t think I have ever asked myself, “Why do we do this Valentine thing?”
I did some research and found an interesting story. J.C. Cooper writes that St. Valentine was a “priest of Rome” who was imprisoned for performing marriages for soldiers in secret. Emperor Claudius needed the soldiers for his army, and he didn’t want them distracted with family life. Claudius found out about the marriages and threw Valentine in prison.
While in prison, Claudius tried to convince Valentine to renounce his Christian beliefs and join the Roman paganism. He refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity.
Claudius was not converted, but “the jailer’s daughter and his 44-member household,” including servants, were converted and baptized. Valentine healed the jailer’s blind daughter.
Valentine sent a letter to the jailer’s daughter on the night he was to be executed and signed it Your Valentine. Who knows if this version of the story is true, but it is interesting. Like so many of our holidays, the real truth about Valentine’s Day has turned to legend. We celebrate, but often we don’t know why. Christmas has become all about the man in the red suit and less about the Christ Child’s birth.
Halloween has become a time for celebrating the hideous and less about “All Saints Day,” where all the martyrs and dead saints were to be remembered for their magnanimous deeds. St. Patrick’s Day has been reduced to “pinch day” and leprechauns, not about the saint who proclaimed the gospel using a shamrock as his teaching tool.
Thanksgiving has become “Turkey Day,” not about the Pilgrims who starved through the winter and sacrificed all for religious freedom. The Fourth of July has become a revelry of fireworks and picnics, with few remembering what the Declaration of Independence really means.
All of the holidays were once considered holy days – days to remember events and people who made a difference. These remembrance days used to connect people to their roots and inspire them to greater service. It used to help them remember the sacrifices and the price paid by a few to bless the masses.
The Bible is another tool that once connected members of society. We understood each other because we understood the Bible. Everyone knew the story of David and Goliath, the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.
We knew about Abraham and Isaac and the plight of the children of Israel. Even a small child could tell you those stories because the stories were household conversations, not just mentioned on Sunday.
I wonder how many children of our modern world could tell you who Moses was, let alone the children of Israel. Just think of the lessons that are lost because we don’t teach our children about the Bible anymore.
David and Goliath is a story about courage and standing one against insurmountable odds. The story of Joseph is a tender story about forgiveness and reunion. The story of Moses is a story about freedom and the price that must be paid for it to last.
It is also a story of the 40-year trial of a people who needed to purge a slavery mentality from their system in order for their children to understand freedom and the power of agency. So much is lost when we forget the power of the Bible.
When I was in college, I read many of the great literary classics. Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost, The Complete Works of Shakespeare and a host of other books, all of which made reference to the Bible. Students used to understand the symbolism of these great works because they understood the Bible.
I wonder now how students of our modern world, who have not studied the Bible, can make connections in those great works. They are great stories and the writing is wonderful, but without the subtext of the Bible, they are just nice stories.
If not the holidays and the Bible, what connects our society today? The media. The media has replaced our heroic Bible characters with such wonderful characters as Iron Man, Captain America, Man of Steel, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and other fantasy characters who play the same game, just in different costumes.
Nearly everyone knows who these characters are and what they stand for. The dinner table (if there are dinner table conversations) is about what movie the family just watched or what movie will be playing at the local theater or on the television.
Perhaps I am being unfair; there have been a surge of Biblical movies lately featuring Noah and Moses. I am not sure how close they follow the real story, but there is an attempt to bring back Bible characters. However, even these movies put Biblical characters in the same category as other movie heroes, bigger than life and connected by sensationalism and cinematography.
Our society is on the slippery slope of amnesia with regards to our Christian heritage. We are forgetting the very things that have made us great as a nation. We are forgetting the reasons for our traditions and unwittingly replacing them with the slogans of secular society.
Our holidays are no longer holy days. They are days for buying and selling the ideas and philosophies of the world. “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die, and he who dies with the most toys wins.”
Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in their bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed down for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the U.S. where men were free.”
I would say Christianity “is never more than one generation away from extinction.” We don’t pass Christianity “to our children in their bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed down for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years” trying to tell our children that Christianity was synonymous with freedom.
There will be no freedom without Christ. He is the God of this nation, and He alone can save us from the bondage we have unwittingly chosen.
Moses led the children of Israel from political bondage under Pharaoh, where they had served for centuries. They saw the miracles Moses performed by the hand of God. They called Moses their deliverer, but they were not converted.
The minute Moses was out of their sight, they made a golden calf to worship. They forgot the miracles and the hand of God in their lives. Their hearts and minds returned to Egypt. If they could have physically returned to Egypt, they would have.
Our children must have their own conversion story. They must have their own burning bush experience. They cannot depend on our testimony or our miracles. They must learn to have their own. We must teach them how.
We must teach them to pray and get answers for themselves. We must teach them to remember. It is so easy to forget. Remembering is what the early Christians hoped would happen with the holidays. They wanted us to remember sacred people and events to bring us closer as God’s people.
If we don’t teach our children to remember that there is real meaning in each holiday, or holy day, and give them a firm grounding in the Bible, we are abdicating the sacred privilege of instructing our children to the whims of the world.
The world will boldly teach them that Egypt is a wonderful place to be and the golden calf is the sole purpose of life. That holidays have nothing to do with holy and that God is a figment of a delusional older generation.
If the world is successful in her teaching, our children and children’s children will see 40-year or 400-year journeys in the proverbial wilderness where freedom and Christianity are only beautiful dreams of yesterday. PD