Wed., Feb. 2/22
Its true! — As of today there are only 325 days until Christmas! I know we don’t usually start counting the days to Christmas until the pear tree arrives, but it’s an easy calculation to make if you know today is “Candlemas!”
According to the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica Candlemas* marks the 40th day after Christmas, the day on which the Virgin Mary would have gone to the Temple in Jerusalem for purification in accordance with Jewish law and the day on which she presented her firstborn son, Jesus, to God. (see Luke 2:22–38).
During the Middle Ages the belief arose that on this day certain animals such as the badger awoke from their hibernation and made an appearance. It was said that if the animal saw its shadow, winter weather would continue six more weeks. If It did not see its shadow it meant the next six weeks would be mild. When German immigrants brought the idea to the United States the groundhog (or woodchuck) became the creature of scrutiny.
We do like to look forward rather than back, don’t we? Something “new,” something “upcoming,” always excites us. Advertisers know this, technology developers plan on it, and the fast-changing seasonal items on store shelves demonstrate it year-round.
But there is great value in looking back. By doing so we can better understand the context that brought us to today. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” Looking back gives us insight into that process.
When we are looking forward, we are often thinking mostly about ourselves. What exciting thing is next to come my way? What must I prepare for in advance? Reminiscence and nostalgia are left for old age.
But when we look only for the next few frames of our lives we miss the plot and purpose which has gone into the whole movie. We miss seeing the BIG PiCTURE as God sees it. As C.S. Lewis observes, “History is a story written by the finger of God.” Today is our part in that epic; it behooves us to know the Mind of the Director.
If groundhogs really do come out for Candlemas they do it on cue by counting back, by knowing their place and duty in time. Do you? (See Esther 4:14).
* Also known as “the Purification of the Blessed Virgin,” or “the Presentation of the Lord.”