In a few days (Feb.2) we will again have an opportunity to celebrate Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is a holiday that takes place in the United Sates and Canada. It’s not really a holiday. People don’t get a day off like they do on real holidays. Most people in these two countries don’t celebrate Groundhog Day. But I do. Before I retired as a pastor, I once preached a sermon about Groundhog Day. And I usually took a few moments to encourage the congregation to take some time on Groundhog day to give thanks to God. I suspect I might be the only pastor who did that.
Now you might ask, just why should we thank God for Groundhog Day? Exactly what is it that we are to be thankful on Groundhog Day? Let me explain. First, a little background information. I’m pretty sure that in one or more of my posts on this blog, I’ve mentioned something about how I don’t like winter. Winter brings cold and snow, and I don’t like cold and snow. I was spoiled about 50 some years ago when the U.S.Navy gave me some all expense paid cruises to the warm and sunny Mediterranian Riviera during the winters of 1958 and 1959. For two years the closest I came to cold weather and snow was when I gazed at the far away snow-clad mountains in the French Alps, while I was on the warm and sunny beaches at Cannes and Nice, France. But that all came to an end when I left the Navy, which happened to be a cold day with a lot of snow on the ground. Like it or not, in the part of the United States where I live (New Jersey), winter is a dark and dreary time of year. which brings cold and snow, and all the problems that come with snow.
I used to pray for warm, sunny weather and that there would be no snow. Sometimes it worked out that way. I was sure God was answering my prayers. But most of the time it didn’t work out the way I wanted it too. Which caused me to wonder if God was even listening to my prayers about the weather. I finally realized when it comes to weather, God hears my prayers, but also hears the prayers of those people who do like cold and snow. This means that God can’t please me and those cold and snow lovers at the same time in the same place. But I still find myself complaining about the weather, knowing that my complaining and praying about the weather aren’t going to change that.
Now we come to Groundhog Day. Every year on this day in a place called Punxatawny, Pennsylvania, and some other places, there are these organizations which hold a Groundhog Day celebration every year on February 2. On this day they bring out a groundhog to see if this animal will see his shadow. Actually, it doesn’t matter what the groundhog sees. It’s what the people conducting the celebration see or don’t see. If they see the groundhog’s shadow, that means there will be six more weeks of winter, which means within a few days of the official start of Spring, in mid-March. If theydon’t see the groundhog’s shadow it means there will be an early spring, and therfore an early end of winter.
That’s the folklore as to what this event is all about. However, I don’t think it really tells us anything about how much longer we have to go through winter weather. I like groundhog day for another reason. It’s a day of Hope. It’s a day on which we are reminded that regardless of whether or not we see the the goundhog’s shadow, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we are being reminded that sooner or later, spring and the warmer weather will arrive, as it does every year. It’s a reminder that God has created laws of nature which assure that our world will continue to support human and other forms of life. One of the results of the working of these laws is that the seasons will continue to come and go, so that sooner or later, year after year, we will all have an opportunity to experience the kind of weather we are hoping for. That’s why I celebrate Groundhog Day with a prayer of thanks for life on this earth in the past and present and for the Hope God gives us for life on earth in the future.