One of my favorite NON-Christian holidays is "Groundhog Day," February 2. It's just an odd day. A furry rodent comes up from the ground... in this case a tree stump, and whether or not he sees his shadow, he determines the weather.
This year, Punxsutawney Phil, the famous rodent himself may indeed see his shadow, meaning that Pennsylvanians have to endure six more weeks of winter. Or not. He's been correct less than 40% of the time. Even worse than paid meteorologists. That's not too good. 40%. Pretty much a failing grade, actually.
The Dutch, and Germans before them who settled Pennsylvania, believed that if “Phil” came up and saw his shadow, there would be 6 more weeks of severe winter. If it was cloudy and his shadow wasn’t cast, the weather would be fine.
As joyfully silly as Groundhog Day seems, it makes me think about the odd things people look to for answers, encouragement, and hope. We often try to find approval and acceptance in the oddest places, and from the strangest people. We try to make ourselves feel better by buying, keeping, and possessing beautiful things (or people). We become addicted to things that promise but can’t deliver. (Judging the weather by checking out the hibernation habits of a furry woodland creature doesn’t seem too odd after all).
Well, guess what. Our LORD and savior Jesus Christ makes promises too. But he keeps them.
God promises an answer to our prayers (1 John 5:14-15). He has promised to supply every need we have. (Philippians 4:19). God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. (2 Corinthians 12:9). God has promised that His children will not be overtaken with temptation. (I Corinthians 10:13). God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully (Romans 8:28). God has promised that those who believe in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will be saved. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). God has also promised His people eternal life (John 10:27-28).
Where is your light that casts a shadow in this dark, world that we’ve messed up? Where do you find hope, when you feel alone? Look to Christ, the true Light of the World, the One who rose from the ground, the one who rose from darkness, from death itself to bring true light and hope to your darkness, your pain, your brokenness, your death. His love heals. His forgiveness redeems and restores. His grace gives freedom and peace.
What we celebrate at Easter is FAR different than Groundhog Day. And Jesus didn't just see his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter or Lent or whatever... He rose CONQUERING the winter and darkness of our souls, bringing us into life.
Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday, begins the time of preparation for the celebration of Easter (so don’t miss it or risk seeing 6 more weeks of Lent!
Blessings and Peace, and Happy Groundhog Day!
Pastor Aaron Boerst