United Church of Christ East Goshen

1201 North Chester Rd.   West Chester PA 19380

610.692.2951               office@UCCEastGoshen.org  

The Word From Punxsutawney

Groundhog Day is Thursday, Feb. 2 and everyone wants to know: Will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow at Gobbler's Knob? And what does it mean if he does?

According to folklore, a groundhog's behavior can predict the weather. A sunny day that allows the groundhog to see his shadow will send him scurrying back into his burrow, a sign of six more weeks of winter. A cloudy and therefore shadow less day is a sign of spring encouraging the groundhog to stay above ground.

The legend dates to early German settlers in Pennsylvania, who had a tradition that if the sun shone on Candlemas Day -celebrated on Feb. 2 in recognition of Christ's presentation at the Temple - the snow would swirl in May (6 more weeks of winter).  The early settlers adopted groundhogs, which were plentiful in the area, as harbingers of the tale.

The country's most famous groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania

It is funny how legends and stories get started, and then we come to integrate them into our life and culture. I guess we could say we are being superstitious, or relying on assumptions, maybe even false evidence about reality (FEAR). We build a whole belief system on what cannot be proven in a black and white way. Sometimes winter continues and sometimes it does not, ground hog or no furry animals!!

Candlemas (mentioned above) primarily focuses on Jesus’ early life. Many Christians believe that Jesus’ mother Mary presented him to God at the Temple in Jerusalem after observing the traditional 40-day period of purification (of mothers) following his birth. According to a New Testament gospel, a Jewish man named Simeon held the baby in his arms and said that he would be a light for the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). It is for this reason that this event is called Candlemas.  In some traditions candles are lit and blessed on the day, and light images are lifted up in liturgy shared.

What if we lifted up Candlemas, like Punxsutawney does for Groundhog Day? Instead of looking to see if Phil sees his shadow and moaning about more winter, what if we sung praise that the shadow seen in our life reflects Christ’s light and presence with us? What if we lit candles, had a parade, made special cookies, offered a movie (like Ground hog Day), had news organizations covering the event, and young children voting in school shadow or no shadow? What if we lifted up the truth that if there is a shadow, there is truly something there? We see shadows when an object is blocking light. The shadow is formed because light can get around it, so you just see the outline.

What if on Candlemas day, we all drew an outline of the Christ we believe is in our lives, and what if we took out an advertisement in the paper and shared our pictures?  Now that is evangelizing, and witnessing into the community with Good News of Hope!!!!  That is thinking out of the boxed limitations churches are frozen in.

Happy Candlemas Day to you, may you see the shadows at every corner!!

Pastor Angelee