This message was preached at Woodvale Baptist Church on Sunday the 4th of February 2018.
It’s February and this is the month when we celebrate Valentine’s Day!
Sadly, what was once a time for lovers to declare and affirm their love for each other has simply become another exercise for retailers to encourage people to spend, spend, spend!
How easily our society is hoodwinked into thinking that spending money on exorbitant and highly priced gifts is the way in which you show the depth of your love for another!
Too often, when the gifts have lost their lustre and the initial *flush of romance has cooled, couples find themselves in the following situation described poetically by Adrian Plass:
Sunday is a funny day,
It starts with lots of noise.
Mummy rushes round with socks,
And Daddy shouts, ‘You boys!’
Then Mummy says, ‘Now don’t blame them,
You know you’re just as bad,
You’ve only just got out of bed,
It really makes me mad!’
My mummy is a Christian,
My daddy is as well,
My mummy says ‘Oh, heavens!’
My daddy says ‘Oh, hell!’
And when we get to church at last,
It’s really very strange,
Cos Mum and Dad stop arguing,
And suddenly they change.
At church my mum and dad are friends,
They get on very well,
But no one knows they’ve had a row,
And I’m not gonna tell.
People often come to them,
Because they seem so nice,
And Mum and Dad are very pleased
To give them some advice.
They tell them Christian freedom
Is worth an awful lot,
But I don’t know what freedom means,
If freedom’s what they’ve got.
Daddy loves the meetings,
He’s always at them all,
He’s learning how to understand
The letters of St Paul.
But Mummy says, ‘I’m stuck at home
To lead my Christian life,
It’s just as well for blinkin’ Paul
He didn’t have a wife.’
I once heard my mummy say
She’d walk out of his life,
I once heard Daddy say to her
He’d picked a rotten wife.
They really love each other,
I really think they do.
I think the people in the church
Would help them – if they knew.
Growing a love that lasts a lifetime is not the result of expensive gifts or grand declarations of extravagance.
Love that lasts a lifetime is forged in the fires of adversity.
It is the fruit of a couple who honestly face the truth about themselves as individuals and are prepared to work for positive change and growth.
Love that lasts a lifetime grows in the seedbed of honest communication.
It is born out by travelling the hard road of dealing with one’s junk.
It is recognising that the person you are married to or in love with is not perfect…and neither are you.
It is learning to accept those imperfections in each other and realising that they can actually work in your favour.
There is enough fakery and pretend love in the world already, so why continue to go along with it.
We have become so enamoured with the version of “love” portrayed on our TV and computer screens that we have forgotten what the real thing looks like!
So do something radical this Valentines’ Day.
Instead of an expensive gift why not invest yourself into your relationship?
Ask yourself what it is that you truly love about your partner.
Write them down. (In a card or a letter – not an email – remember what writing is?!)
And then give it to your loved one.
Spend time together talking about the things that you love about each other.
And then plan and dream about how you can build on that in the coming year.
Don’t settle for what our culture says is true love – discover it’s wonder and beauty for yourselves!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis describes the ship sailing into an unearthly, inky blackness and rescuing a sailor who had been lost in the darkness for years. Taking the man onboard, the crew begins to fear that they too, will be unable to find their way out.
Then Lucy breathes a prayer to Aslan that leads to this:
“Look!” cried Rynelf’s voice hoarsely from the bows. There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship. It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight. Caspian blinked, stared round, saw the faces of his companions all with wild, fixed expressions. Everyone was staring in the same direction: behind everyone lay his black, sharply-edged shadow.
Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.
In a few moments the darkness turned into a greyness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been. They blinked their eyes and looked about them. The brightness of the ship herself astonished them: they had half expected to find that the darkness would cling to the white and the green and the gold in the form of some grime or scum. And then first one, and then another, began laughing.
There are times when our lives are filled with personal darkness.
It may be the darkness of a marriage breakup. It could be the darkness of depression or an unexpected diagnosis that has left you feeling as if you are groping around blindly, looking for hope and finding none.
Perhaps you are struggling with your personal failures.
Or it could be that feeling that has dogged you for years, that sense that no matter how hard you try, you just never quite measure up – “I will never be good enough” you conclude.
And our personal world of darkness often feels particularly pronounced at Christmas time.
“Everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves. If only I could too !”
Centuries ago Isaiah made a wonderful promise concerning what God would do about our personal darkness:
“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever… there will be a time in the future when…the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
He described what God did on that first Christmas – He sent His Son Jesus to shine the light of His love and grace into the world’s – and our – darkness.
No matter how dark your world is right now, God wants you to know how much He loves you. So why not open the door of your heart and let the light of His love shine in?