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You won’t be surprised to know that, as a pastor, religious holidays like Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas are very special days for me. But there are also secular holidays which are meaningful to me, especially Independence Day (4th of July) and Memorial Day. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more patriotic. Then there’s the day I can never forget – my wedding anniversary (53 years on April 9). All of these days remind me that there is always hope where there seems to be no hope, and good news in the midst of bad news.
But I do have a favorite day which might surprise you. I don’t know if you can really call it a holiday, since no one gets to take off from work on this day. There are no big sales going on in the stores. There’s no parade. It does get a minute or two of attention on the evening news. But that’s about it. For most people it’s just another day. I celebrated that day two days ago -February 2. That’s right – GROUND HOG DAY. Every year I look forward to this day. That’s because I don’t like cold weather. If you read my blog post of January 10 you heard my complaint about cold, snowy, wintry weather. So I won’t repeat all that here.
Getting back to Ground Hog Day. The tradition about Ground Hog Day, at least in the Northeastern USA, is that in a town called Punxatawny, Pennsylvania, the ground hog, whose name is Phil, is rudely awakened from his winter hibernation to predict the weather. If Phil the ground hog, at that time and in that place, see his shadow, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. Which, as it turns out, always closely coincides with the date the calendar shows as the first day of spring. However, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, there will be an an early (and warm) spring. I’m not sure how that all started, but I did read in the paper that the day was first celebrated by some German immigrant farmers back in the 19th century. Possibly some of my German ancestors. Maybe I’ll look it up in Wikipedia.
Anyway, when I got up on Ground Hog day and looked out the window, I was on the one hand, happy to see the sun shining, since we had been enduring a week or more of cold, dreary, cloudy, and sometimes snowy, wintry weather. To see the sun shining meant it would at least be a bit warmer. Good news. But then I remembered that if the sun was shining, that meant Phil would see his shadow. Bad news. Six more weeks of winter. As the day went by I became resigned to this reality. Then came the 11 o’clock news. This time, really good news. Earlier in the day, at the appointed hour, Phil made his prediction, and as it happened, he did not see his shadow. So I went to bed thinking about the early and warm spring that Phil had predicted.
By the next morning, reality set in. Since I am now a full-fledged senior citizen, I have come to the point where God has given me the wisdom to know that I can’t always rely on the ground hog to predict this particular aspect of the weather. That wisdom goes like this: “the ground hog doesn’t always get it right, shadow or no shadow, but there is still hope. There is still good news in the midst of the bad news.” The good news and hope is that ever since God created ground hogs, and probably even before that, it has always been true that sooner or later, according to God’s timing, spring and warm weather will return every year. That’s a fact. So I will be thanking God in advance and patiently waiting for the warm spring weather which I know without a doubt God will provide. The truth is that I am always being reminded that with God there is always hope. Always good news in the midst of bad news. To me, that’s what Ground Hog Day is really about. That’s why I celebrate Ground Hog Day every year, no matter what Punxatawny Phil or anyone else predicts.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray