Summary: There are a lot of things that frighten us from fully serving but they are actually only shadows.
Happy Groundhog Day. We are either going to have six more weeks of winter or spring is around the corner.
How many of you knew that Groundhog Day had its beginning as a religious holiday? On the 2nd day of February there was a celebration called Candlemas Day. It was the Christian festival of lights. It commemorated the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of her son Jesus. Also forty days after the birth of a Jewish boy, it was custom to take him to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to God by his thankful parents. Therefore, it was on February 2nd that Christians remembered the presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
It also was a day to bless the candles used in the church. It was the Festival Day (or mass) of the candles. Candles were important due to the lack of electricity. But they also believed that candles gave protection against plague, illness, and famine. And of course, the candles represented Jesus as the light of the world.
Eventually the idea that Candlemas could predict the weather for the rest of the winter came into play. The Candlemas proverbs expressed the idea that a fine bright sunny day meant more winter was to come, whereas a cloudy wet stormy day meant that the worst of winter was over.
The Germans added the animal factor.
“The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day, and, if he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.” When this proverb made it to America, it became a groundhog or woodchuck.
With the invention of electricity, Candlemas Day became less important. But with the assistance of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper Groundhog Day was established. In an article published in 1886 it was declared, "Today is Groundhog Day, and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow." And every since people have watched for Punxsutawney Phil to make his prediction.
What drives Phil back into his hole? It is the fear of his own shadow of course. And sometimes it is the shadows in our lives that scare us the most.
How many of you remember the movie “Jaws?” When it was released in 1975 people developed an unrealistic fear of sharks. And although we occasionally hear about a shark attack somewhere, they are really a rare occasion. You are 30 times more likely to be hit by lightening than to be bitten by a shark. Thousands of more people are bit dogs than by sharks. But there are those with an irrational fear of going into the ocean.
A lot of us are afraid of spiders. We cringe at the sight of one and scramble to find a shoe to squish it. But in our area, there are only two types of poisonous spiders; the brown recluse and the black widow. Neither of the spiders delivers venom strong enough to kill a person. The black widows bite is painful and the brown recluse can cause excessive skin damage. Both spiders remain hidden and therefore not seen crawling around. Those you see are usually harmless and beneficial for controlling annoying insects.
Another great fear is snakes. There is a nearly zero chance of dying from snakebite. Fewer than one in 37,500 are bitten by snakes each year and only one in 50 million people will actually die from snakebite. You are 9 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than from snakebite. Snakes are
non-confrontational and will flight before fight. They also control the population of rodents and insects.
For those who fear these things, your fears are rational and real but often unfounded. We, sometimes, are like the groundhog. We are scared of our own shadow. And that fear can hinder us from doing what God has called us to do.
The Bible tells us to fear. However, as Christians, we are to fear only one thing and that is God. Over 160 times I discovered a variation of the term “fear God.” The Hebrew word had a dual meaning. One was a terror or fright; the other was honor, respect, and awe. There are times when we are to have a terror toward God because of his might. For example Jesus said “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) That is a terror type of fear. But mostly when we read about our command to fear God, it means to approach him with honor, respect, and awe. The Bible says “Those who fear the Lord are secure; he will be a refuge for their children.” (Proverbs 14:26)