Feb. 14, 2018 is Ash Wednesday. It also just so happens to be Valentine’s Day.
There’s a unique contrast between these two holidays. Valentine’s Day relates to excess—cheesy love songs, over-the-top romance, and elaborate gifts. On the other hand, Ash Wednesday focuses on moderation. It’s officially the start of Lent, when most people give up a vice for 40 days.
There is one point of connection between these two days—love. Valentine’s Day revolves around romantic love. And Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of Christ’s sacrificial love for us. That may not be the most theological explanation, but we can leave that stuff to the pastor.
What is the church to do when one of our traditional Christian holidays falls on the same day as a flower-filled, Hallmark-driven, love-fest? Well, this is actually a great opportunity to connect the two events.
Ash Wednesday is an event some within the church know. For others it’s a tradition that’s at least vaguely familiar. However, it’s not something those outside the church know at all.
The fact that these holidays fall on the same day gives us the opportunity to explain a church tradition. We have the chance to spread God’s love on a wider scale.
Connect Ash Wednesday & Valentine’s Day
- Send out handwritten love notes to every house in a one-mile radius of your church—this could even be an opportunity to explain why we celebrate Ash Wednesday.
- Combine your traditional Ash Wednesday service with a Valentine’s celebration; find a balance between the colorful Valentine’s decor and the humble trappings of Ash Wednesday.
- Host a relationship/marriage sermon series leading up to the big day that focuses on the humility of Ash Wednesday.
- Instead of giving something up for Lent, give couples ideas of things they can start doing to improve their relationship.
- Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and is usually celebrated with eating pancakes—so host a pancake breakfast with heart-shaped flapjacks.
- Give the couples in your church date night ideas—each date could start at the Ash Wednesday service so the couples can connect spiritually.
- Post quotes about love on social media to let people know you care; then post a few verses of scripture referring back to Ash Wednesday.
- Instead of marking people’s foreheads with ash crosses, draw some ash hearts on foreheads.
- Write words of encouragement in chalk on the sidewalks of your town—chalk isn’t the same as ash, but it’s close enough (it’ll look even closer if you use those sticks of black chalk you normally avoid).
- Give away relationship/marriage books that your church can read during Lent.
- Buy extra Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to give away to any of the busy significant others who forgot at the last minute—they can pick them up while getting their foreheads ashed.
- Organize a service project to help those who don’t feel as loved in the community—encourage couples to come serve together, or singles to be a part of something that’s not all about coupled romance.
- Host a free fancy dinner at your church for everyone in the community who can’t afford one—offer childcare so couples are more likely to attend.
- Publish a short Lent devotional with the theme of God’s love.
- Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are about intentional sacrifice, giving something up so you can learn to better appreciate it. Encourage your congregation to give up the extravagance of Valentine’s Day. Instead of romantic dinners, maybe they partake in a service project. Instead of flowers and gifts, maybe they donate to a charity they love.
I just so happen to work for an organization that creates marriage resources for churches—it’s called MarriedPeople. We develop marriage events, small group studies, and date nights that church leaders can give to the couples within their church to improve marriages.
(For the calendar nerds, Ash Wednesday last fell on February 14 in 1945. It will happen again in 2024 and 2029, but then not again for the rest of this century.)
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