by Rev. Blaine R. Wenger


On Groundhog Day

 Yesterday, was Groundhog Day. It is a strange “celebration.”  In various communities, clubs will bring out the groundhog they keep as a pet, and tell the world what the groundhog told them, about whether spring is around the corner sooner or later.  (Deep down, I think there is the desire for the cold and dark of winter to end and the warmth and light of spring to come.  People are hoping for a reason to hope.)  Of course, around this area, it is kind of a big deal. This practice has roots in German folklore; and this area of the United States had a lot of German settlers and influence.  Growing up, I thought that THE groundhog was Octoraro Orphie; the groundhog local to southern Lancaster County.   I’m not sure how old I was before I realized that there were other groundhogs being asked the same question.  Even now, I guess you could say that I root for the home team.  That groundhog out in Punxsutawney just doesn’t cut it!

But, while I might have my biases, and think that all other groundhogs are distractions, Groundhog day itself may be a distraction to something even deeper. The ancient calendars of the church, still followed by many around the world, see February 2 as Candlemas Day, or “the Feast of the Presentation.”  It has been 40 days since Christmas; an appropriate time, according to Jewish Custom, for a woman to come to the Temple after giving birth.  She would have performed her purification rites, and the baby would be presented.  In the case of a first-born male such as Jesus, that would have meant the rites of redemption of the first born.

In our modern practice of observing the life of Jesus, the lectionary puts our observance about a week or so after the birth.  But, the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 2, verse 15 reads, “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him (Jesus) to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.”  There is nothing there that indicates it came a week or so after the birth.  In fact, that timeline really doesn’t make sense.  Why is it that the modern church crunches the timeline down? My guess: today we have such a short attention span.  We’ve had Christmas. Presents have been exchanged. It is time to move on to other diversions and distractions; like seeing what groundhogs have to say about the weather.  We are easily bored.

But, this strange “Holiday” and the even lesser known religious observance can serve to challenge us, or at least cause us to reflect.  What is it that determines the rhythms of your life?  Will we let the desires inside us drive us to seek answers that satisfy?  Or, will we wait patiently on God’s timing, for God to reveal what He will, as He will?  Will we respond to the hype of a party, with top hats!?  Or will we “be still and know”? I’m not saying we cannot take note of the things of the world.  We may even find some amusement in them.  But, let us be defined and directed by our relationship to God, before all other things.  Much as we might want an early spring, an ever present God is even better.

Grace, Mercy, and Peace,

Pastor Blaine