February 2, 2021
Dear friends in Christ,
Today is the Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas. It is also Groundhog Day. Did you know they’re related?
Candlemas is exactly 40 days after Christmas. Mosaic law stated that 40 days was the period of purification after the birth of a child, and so Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple 40 days after he was born. In Christian tradition, Candlemas was the day clergy blessed and distributed candles needed for winter. The day became linked to weather predictions about the end of winter because of an old English poem:
“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight.
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.”
Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal– the hedgehog– as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition using groundhogs. So now you know. (For more information, check out these websites: (https://buildfaith.org/candlemas-groundhog-day/ and https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-groundhog-day)
Today marks 40 days after Christmas. And in just over two weeks, we will enter another 40-day period in the liturgical year – the season of Lent. The collects, or opening prayers for worship, for this day and for Ash Wednesday both talk about our hearts. Today, we ask that “we may be presented to you [God] with pure and clean hearts,” and on Ash Wednesday we ask God to “create and make in us new and contrite hearts.”
In the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, the main character relives that day over and over and over and over, gradually shedding his arrogance and self-centeredness and learning to love and care for others. The first part of the movie, until he realizes he’s stuck in time, makes me crazy. But once he realizes it, he begins to approach it differently, and that’s when his transformation begins, and the movie really takes off.
As Christians, we recognize that without God, we are stuck in our old ways, and that they are not bringing us to the fullness of life God desires for us. Our continuing prayer is for God to work in us, to cleanse and purify our hearts, to make them new so that we may be transformed. On this Feast of the Presentation, may we once again present ourselves to God. And later this month, may we with joy accept God’s invitation to a holy Lent.
In addition to Sunday worship, you are invited to seek God and the transformative power of God’s love every day. Our website will have a resource page where you can find recommendations for prayer, scripture reading, and other devotional material. We invite you to prayerfully exercise your creativity to create a “virtual gallery” where we can peek into each other’s journeys. And we will have a Wednesday night book group where we can “fall in love with the Bible again” and understand its power in new ways. However you choose to engage this season, may it be a time of blessing. Many of us are exhausted, body and soul, by the pandemic. My prayer is for refreshment, so that we will be, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.”