Groundhog day … a day steeped in tradition … and rodents … As strange as it may seem, you cannot dismiss its importance in the hearts and minds of the average person in this land of snow and ice. You might think that living in Canada we would come to accept that winters will be long and cold. That there will be snow, and blowing, and freezing. You might think that we would come to take it all in stride, as a recognized (if not welcome) fact of life.
But we don’t. Somehow we always seem surprised when it snows. We get gloomy when the winter lasts all winter long. We complain when the deep freeze is strangely colder than our summer swelter. Every winter is the same … “This is the worst one I can remember.” “This is the longest one ever.” “This is the coldest one I’ve ever lived through.”
And so it is 43 unbearable days into the season that people begin to crave release from this bondage to winter. They long for a sign. They pray for some good news. They plead for a ray of hope to see them through the bleak days ahead. Enter the humble groundhog and his lowly shadow. Here in Collingwood we are not so very far from one of the most well known of the Furry Canadian Meteorological Prognosticators, Wiarton Willie. And what good news he brought us? In the midst of a snowstorm there was no shadow, so winter will end early (but still not early enough for some!). Good-bye shadows, hello Spring! Only time (about six weeks at the most) will tell if this is true or not.
And yet, even when winter finally does end (sooner or later) people will still be in bondage to the whims of this time we live in. Life is still full of many dark and foreboding shadows. We will still be surprised when bad news falls upon us, when the gloom lasts, when hearts remain cold. You might think that we would come to accept that life can be unpleasant. That there will be sadness, grief and pain. People get sick. People are lonely. People hurt one another. People suffer and die. You might think that we would come to take it all in stride, as a recognized fact of life.
But we don’t … because deep down everyone knows that it shouldn’t be like this. Deep down everyone knows there should be something better. Even the most jaded and storm-worn individuals this world has produced still crave release, still long for a sign, still pray for some good news. Everyone is looking for that little ray of hope to see them through the bleak days ahead.
And God has given that sign. In the chill of another early morning nearly 2000 years ago another prognosticator of sorts emerged from his rest to give hope to this world in bondage to sin, death, and the devil. Only His prediction lies not in the loosing of winter for another year, but the springing forth of new life – eternal life, where once there was only the gloom of death. For as this man, himself once dead but now gloriously alive again, stepped forth from the tomb, it was good-bye to shadows and hello to life and light eternal. Were oh death is thy victory? Where oh death is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:55-57)
So as we sit and wait for the coming of our early spring with all of its long-awaited warmth and life, let us remember not to be afraid of the shadows around us. In Christ our Light, there is Good News, the promise of fairer days ahead. No matter how deep or dark the shadows in your life may seem, they will not last . In the the ever greater Life and Light that is coming in our Lord, they will be dispelled once and forever. And life will rise anew in a springtime of blessedness that will not end.