Pastor David, What’s with this groundhog stuff?
One fascinating and insightful root to the practice of today is found behind the dates. February 1st — the first Quarter day, half way between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox — is the also the occasion of the ancient pagan festival of Imbolc (or Oimelc), as well as being the Christian festival of Candlemas. Traditionally, if the sun shines today, winter is over, but if the sun is behind a cloud, winter is still to come — a legend that has given rise to: Groundhog Day!
February is in the ‘dead’ of winter, and typically everyone in the northern hemisphere is cold and tired of the season and anxious for signs of spring. From this mindset, and seizing upon a ‘special’ date in the annual calendar, superstitious peoples grope for encouragements (and entertainments). The celtic celebration of Imbolc, was later replaced by the Church with the festival of Candlemas Day on February 2nd.
Everybody was looking for ‘light’ at the end of winter’s long tunnel.
What gets me is how “modern” man views himself as free from such primitive superstitions and pagan practices! Ha! Folks these days are just as superstitious — and just as pagan — in so many practices which we continue to observe, albeit under cute names with humble mascots.
Behind this superstitious bent is the reality of man’s rebellion from his Maker, the God of the Bible. Rebel man would rather look for signs of spring in the sky (or in the behavior of a groundhog) than patiently abide by the truths of God’s word.
From the New Testament, Romans 1:18-22 says — “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…”
And Romans 1:25 adds: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is for ever praised. Amen.”
There is a great reversal in man’s rebellion:
the created order becomes “divine” and the truly divine God becomes demeaned.
I think most secular, pagan (and nominally religious) Americans can see their own shadow right there. Good thing there is grace in the gospel of Christ to change, recover the truth, and worship the one true and living God.