On this beloved day of the calendar, we celebrate our love for that special someone in our lives. Many of us will be giving (or receiving) boxes of chocolates and bouquets of roses as an expression of that love.
But sometimes those roses have thorns, don’t they?
The truth is, love sometimes hurts. It can cost us something.
We think of Valentine’s Day as simply about romantic love, but the history behind this day shows us that true love is often about sacrifice.
This was certainly the case for Saint Valentine of Rome, for whom Valentine’s Day is named.
This third-century priest was known for his evangelistic work and for aiding persecuted Christians. He was martyred for his faith on February 14 in AD 269, executed by order of Emperor Claudius for refusing to deny Christ.
Saint Valentine patterned for us a life focussed on loving others; he refused to deny the Source of that love, even if it cost him his life.
Christ modelled that sort of sacrificial love, too.
He would let nothing stop His purpose of showing love to others by securing for them a way to spend eternity with Him, even if it cost Him His life.
To answer that question, we first have to reach back to June 16, 1940, when that phrase was made famous in a speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
World War Two had begun the previous year. France, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands had all fallen under the jackboots of the Nazis. It was a dark time, and the only thing standing between Hitler and control of the rest of Europe was the island nation of Britain.
In this context, Churchill prepared his people for the immense sacrifices that would be asked of them in the coming battles. He told them that the survival of their nation and way of life lay at stake. He let them know the consequences both of success and of failure in the task ahead of them.
He concluded his speech with one of the great rallying cries in history:
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ”
Churchill was telling the British people that their finest hour would not be a time of ease or comfort. Rather, it would encompass pain, sacrifice, duty, and selflessness.
The same holds true for us.
And the same held true for Jesus in His finest hour.
If you were paying attention during physics class in high school, you’ll know that there are certain laws that the natural world abides by.
The Law of Gravity, for instance. Legend has it that this principle was discovered by a young Isaac Newton when he was hit on the head by an apple which fell from the tree he was sitting under.
Or the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest or in motion will continue in that state unless acted upon by an external force. So when I’m sitting in my easy chair and don’t want to get up to do any housework, I’m not being lazy. I’m simply obeying the law of inertia.
I recently heard a wag rephrase Newton’s Third Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). He dubbed it the Law of Emotion: for every male action there is a female overreaction!
Then there’s the Law of Conservation of Energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another. For instance, our bodies transform the chemical energy in food into kinetic energy to help us move around.
I think sin has a principle attached to it which is similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.
Sin can’t just disappear. It has to be dealt with in some way.
But it can be transformed.
As author Dorothy Sayers said, “There is only one real law—the law of the universe. It may be fulfilled either by way of judgement or by the way of grace, but it must be fulfilled one way or the other.”
If you had to guess, what would you say is the most valuable thing in the world by weight?
If you’re a cook, you might pick costly foods like beluga caviar or white truffles. Or perhaps the spice saffron, which can go for thousands of dollars per pound.
If you’re a jewellery lover, your mind might go to precious metals like silver, gold or platinum. You’d know that gold has been revered since ancient times, and sometimes goes for thousands of dollars per ounce.
You’d be getting warmer if you worked in industry and knew that some substances used in things like catalytic converters are very costly indeed. Rhodium and palladium are even more valuable than gold.
These would all be good guesses, but not even close.
What about diamonds as the most valuable thing on earth by weight? Very rare coloured diamonds such as the red can be valued at millions of dollars per gram.
If you’re a scientist, you might get closer by guessing plutonium, used to fuel nuclear reactors. Or you might figure you’ve hit the jackpot by picking antimatter, which might power spaceships one day.
This substance requires inconceivable amounts of energy to generate. It’s estimated that antimatter costs tens of billions or even trillions of dollars per gram.
But there’s one thing on earth more valuable than even that…
A funny thing happens in a city when one of its sports teams reaches the playoffs or finals.
Suddenly, everyone becomes a fan.
This is especially true if that team has suffered a trophy or title drought for a considerable length of time, perhaps decades.
The team’s fortunes become a topic of conversation everywhere in town. People talk about their team’s success while at work, in stores, or on transit. They speak with authority about the merits of certain players, or even about specific shots in particular games.
On any given day, people in town know exactly where their team stands, and how many games they need to win to achieve the championship title for that year.
My hometown of Toronto experienced this in 2019 when the Raptors won their first NBA title in the franchise’s history. Their victory was celebrated with a massive parade downtown, attended by millions.
I had friends who gushed about the Raptors’ success, then grinned sheepishly and admitted, “And I don’t even like basketball!”
Everyone loves a winner, don’t they?
But what happens when your team doesn’t produce the victory everyone is hoping for?
We all love stories of rescues from behind enemy lines, don’t we?
There’s something thrilling about the courage of soldiers who risk their lives penetrating hostile territory for the sole aim of retrieving a fellow soldier who is trapped there.
Perhaps you’ve seen movies like “Behind Enemy Lines” or “Saving Private Ryan,” both of which feature storylines of military units launching search and rescue missions into enemy territory to retrieve one of their own soldiers.
We admire the willingness of soldiers to potentially sacrifice their own lives to save another’s. They deserve our utmost respect.
But did you know that God goes “behind enemy lines” to save people, too?
This week we commemorate Remembrance Day, and honour those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Some of those we remember are the airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice eighty years ago in the Battle of Britain during World War II. This battle, fought in the skies in 1940, saved that island nation from almost certain invasion by Hitler’s Nazis.
But it came at a terrible cost to the Allied flight crews who were battling the Luftwaffe. The average life expectancy of a Spitfire pilot during the battle was heartbreakingly short: a mere four weeks.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to those airmen in his famous wartime speech on August 20, 1940:
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
This became one of the most famous of Churchill’s sayings, and those airmen became known as “The Few.”
But did you know that Churchill actually started out with a different line when he was composing his speech, and felt he had to change it?
Flowers speak. Not just through their fragrance or their beauty, but with secret codes, too.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the “language of flowers” popular during Victorian times? This enchanting symbolic language enabled suitors to send coded messages to their paramours, ones that couldn’t be spoken aloud. The message depended on the particular flowers and colours chosen for the bouquet. An entire conversation could be carried out solely through flowers, with no words employed at all.
We all know that red roses symbolize true love, and we’d rightly guess that the forget-me-not begs that the giver be remembered. But did you know the following flower meanings?
Red carnation: My heart aches for you Hyacinth: Your loveliness charms me Canterbury bell: Your letter received Yellow rose: Jealousy Butterfly weed: Let me go Weeping willow: Sadness
The Victorian language of flowers is a cryptic tongue. Most people only see the surface of the flower and not the symbolic meaning hidden within it.
God has His own “language of flowers,” but it actually encompasses all of creation. God is continually speaking to us through nature:
“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20 NLT)
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1 NLT)
If we listened in to what nature was saying about its Creator, what messages would be revealed?