Groundhog Day is pretty much my favorite day of the year. This year also has the joy of being Superbowl Sunday, but that comes secondary to this magnificent holiday in my book. Every year, Superbowl or not, I throw a big party that celebrates Phil's predictions with prizes, Groundhog cupcakes, flapjacks, and the movie "Groundhog Day." I only allow myself to watch the movie annually, otherwise I would watch it almost every day.
Why the over-zealous celebration? For starters, February is the most dreary month. The holidays are long past, winter is dragging on and on, football is ending, and it is right about this time that we need a quirky, fun, non-hallmarkified holiday.
Now for the deeper reasons. For several years I struggled with depression. The best way to express it was that it felt like I was in a dark tunnel, and with every step I took it seemed to get darker, more overwhelming, and less escapable (similar to how winter starts to feel this time of year). The movie "Groundhog Day" portrays a similar struggle. Every day Phil (Bill Murray) wakes to find that he is reliving the same day over and over, February 2nd- Groundhog Day. At first he turns to selfishness and arrogance to cope, he does whatever he thinks will make him feel good, but eventually his lack of control causes him to despair and he tries to take his own life. After several attempts to kill himself he finds that even this is beyond his control. The turning point in the movie comes when he decides to make the best of it. He begins living, learning, and taking any opportunity he can to help out others.
So often the circumstances of our lives are not at all what we would have chosen and they are utterly beyond our control. The truth is the only thing we can control is our own attitude. We can choose to curl up and selfishly pout, or we can trust God, serve others, and choose to make the best of it. The circumstances may not change, but what I can assure you of is that there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel. How can I be so sure? Well, that is because of the other holiday of February 2nd.
Less well-known, is the fact that February 2nd also represents Candlemas. It is 40 days after Christmas and this is when Jesus is presented at the Temple.
22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”According to Leviticus 12 the Law of the first 40 days was the male child was to be circumcised after eight days and after another 33 days the child was consecrated to the Lord and named. Joseph and Mary followed the instructions of the angel and named him "Jesus" which means "Yahweh saves." It is interesting to notice the offering Mary and Joseph give is actually the poor man's offering. A lamb is the typical offering when afforded. But the picture being made is that the smallest gift man could give was being offered for the greatest gift man could receive.
A priest in the temple named Simeon sees Jesus and takes him into his arms and offers this prophetic prayer:
"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”He offers personal worship and gratitude as well as prophesying the certain hope of mankind found only in Jesus. He essentially says "I can die in peace because God has kept His promises!" Mary and Joseph went to the temple intending to present their son to God, but instead God, through Simeon, presents His Son to the world.
This is the real hope celebrated on February 2nd. Jesus provides salvation to all those who put their faith in Him alone. It is because of His sacrifice that we go from being enemies of God and children of wrath, to being His friends and beloved children. Isaiah 44:5 says that our new identity is "belonging to the Lord." It is this new identity that provides the only lasting hope for life. It is the fact that we belong to a gracious and compassionate God that enables us to face the darkest of nights and the coldest of winters with the certainty that the sun will rise and spring will come. So while the uncertainty of this life overwhelms us to the core, we know that we have a certain future through Jesus our light and our glory.