Jesus; the better Groundhog

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word;  
       For my eyes have seen Your salvation,  Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,   
 And the glory of Your people Israel.”


       It is not a coincidence that Groundhog day is the same day as the day the church celebrates the Presentation of our Lord. Both days are about hope and life, the end of darkness and cold, the beginning of light and warmth. Ground hog day is a day of looking forward to the end of winter and the coming of Spring. The Presentation of our Lord is a day of remembering how the appearance of a greater hero,Jesus, ended darkness and despair; and began the reign of Light and Life forevermore!

Ground hog day has its origins in a pagan day of importance called Imbolc. This was especially popular on continental Europe. On that day, February 2, it was believed that if the Sun was out, winter would be prolonged. And if it was cloudy, spring was right around the corner. While winter seems to rub many of us the wrong way, I’m not sure we so desperately desire its end as much as people did 1000 years ago or even a hundred years ago. After all, until recently one did not have immediate access to food and comfort all year around. Also, people back then did not have the drugs for common diseases as we have. Therefore much preparation went into winter living. Food had to be stored. Wood needed to be chopped and kept dry. Winter could be enjoyed, but not for long. And it was especially hard on the weak, young and old. This was a time of catching diseases. It was a time of being inside which means disease is easily spread. Many a rough winter wiped out our first colonies in America.

So you can imagine people looking desperately toward warmer temperatures and sprouting plants. The food was running out. The fuel for the fire was dwindling. The newborn babe was shivering and had caught a cold. How awfully exciting and comforting it was back then when the days became warmer and the sun stayed out longer and buds of life peaked out from the cold and muddy ground. Ground hog day was not just a cute holiday but it was about LIFE and DEATH! Spring couldn’t come too soon.

God tells us that the world is living in a dismal season much like winter. Indeed all the world had been put into this season of death and darkness since Adam disobeyed God and grasped for power in the once green garden. And just as snow and cold are the characteristics of winter; death, destruction, division, and despair are the characteristics of the season of this world. All the results of humans sinning, you and me!

This was the desperate season in which lived our relatives in Christ, Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna. Mary felt the pain of this spiritual winter when she bore her first born in the lowly stable. And as are most births, unclean blood preceded and succeeded her messy delivery. Indeed that it is why she had come to the temple that day; she had to wait the ordered 40 days of purity until she could be considered clean and be around other people. Her days of separation were concluded at the temple where she came with her firstborn son to do what every good jew did as commanded by God; to present their child to the Lord in thanksgiving for preserving their life. The new couple also came to give two doves for a sacrifice; one for thanksgiving, the other for atonement for the mother’s sins; for her purity! You see a major characteristic of the sinful season was the blood that always flowed from the altars in Israel! Blood for blood. Death for death. An animal’s death in place of a sinner’s death. Mercy and forgiveness with a price!

Yet in the midst of this dark season. Amidst the muddy streets and cold hearts, and lonely eyes, a green sprout appeared! While mary and joseph came to present their miracle baby to God, God in fact presented His Son to the world, specifically the patient adam and eve; Simeon and Anna! While mary and Joseph came to complete the sacrifices necessary for their purification and cleanness before God, God presented His son who would be the FINAL SACRIFICE for the true and complete purity of all sinners! The end of death had arrived! The end of darkness was at hand. The end of mourning and sorrow, of doubt and despair, of waiting, of waiting, of waiting was ENDED!

Simeon had seen the ravages of winter wreck his world for sure. He had seen Israel endure destruction by her dishonest rulers and adulterous children. He had surely seen death take many members of his family. He had surely seen sin separate people; and indeed wreck havoc in his own life. He had surely seen young children die, poor people starve, and many people suffer grotesque diseases and catastrophes. He had seen Satan hold the world hostage in a winter season that had no end! But God had told him to come on this ground hog day, to see the end of winter and the beginning of LIFE!

So when He saw this green bud, named Jesus, he passionately proclaimed, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word;  For my eyes have  seen Your salvation,   
 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
  And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Half were words he put together. Half were words he had known since he was just a young child when He first learned from Isaiah of the savior who was to come! NOW, Simeon says! NOW, God declares! NOW the sun has arisen. NOW Life has begun. NOW Death has met its match. NOW The Devil is conquered!

We live in that NOW today! Yours eyes have also seen that salvation! And your ears have received the GOOD NEWS! And your hearts have been given the spirit of God and forgiveness for all your misdeeds! Jesus the green blade of life laid down his life like those two turtledoves and received once and for all the wrath meant for all sinners, you and me!
But sometimes we are confused, aren’t we? it so often seems to be so dark outside. Not spring like at all. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters have suffered the ills of the season. Cancer has taken the life of not just an older friend but a young one even! The superficial worries of this world may have claimed a friend of yours who once was so active in the church!

And the darkness… the darkness sometimes strangles our hope and faith. Late at night we sometimes stay up burdened by our terrible sins. Terrible deeds we have done against God, against others, even against our loved ones, even against our own body. Oh we fall down don’t we? Sometimes we would rather live in the darkness away from the light of Christ, alone in our sins. Sometimes we let the dark ways of the world invade our life and our relationships with even our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes we cry out differently than Simeon saying, “ WHERE IS THE PEACE! WHERE IS THE GLORIOUS GREEN LIFE IN CHRIST! WHERE IS THE SPRING?

We live in two seasons my friends; A dark winter that is passing; A bright Spring that has already begun. But the spring is hidden as it is today in our gardens. Tubers and bulbs beneath the earth appear dead to the eye. Yet they hold in them life none the less that will soon bloom. So it is with those in Christ. When you have been captured by your Lord, you have been hidden with Him. Now we live by faith, then we shall live by sight!
It was the same with our Lord. Everywhere Jesus, that green blade of life; went, reversals of this doomed world followed. Everywhere His green and yellow shadow fell, a blind man was given sight. A deaf man could hear. A lame man could walk. A bleeding woman was clean. A dead man was RAISED! When he came and walked among us it was as if one looked out right now upon a muddy and cold field and there was a perfect oasis of green!
Yet the depravity of our condition had never been more evident as when those who have should rejoiced in His presence instead crushed him on the cross and buried him deep into the winter soil. Yet that greatest victory of Satan was turned into God’s victory and our salvation! For Christ’s terrible death gave you LIFE. Just as a seed must die for it to bloom. And that seed did bloom. It sprung up 3 days later and proclaimed the END of DEATH, the END of SATAN, the END of SIN for all those in Him.

And you too have been planted by the Holy Spirit! When you were baptized into Jesus you died with Him on the cross and are now dead to this WORLD. Yet in God’s eyes you have LIFE, LIFE THAT IS NOW! Yet you too are like those seemingly lifeless things, hidden to the perverted eye of the world. But you shall be revealed! On the last day when our Lord returns you too shall rise again just as He did!

That is our hope. But it is a hope that is fed and encouraged NOW by our gracious gardener and Shepherd; Jesus. That is the purpose of the Church. You who despair in sorrow. You who are tired of the dark world and your dark flesh always looming over you. You who are lonely and fearful. You who worry over your children. You who stay up late in sorrow over your sins. Come and be fed by the Lord of LIFE NOW. THE LORD OF LIGHT;. THE LORD OF FORGIVENESS AND PEACE! For here today He comes to you and He feeds you. For His Holy Supper is the supper of life and hope-for it is his very body and blood. And when you eat of it remembering His death is your life, you are given FORGIVENESS, FAITH, and LIFE. And I hope that you take Simeon’s words to heart today as you leave saying,

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word; 
       For my eyes have seen Your salvation,   Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,   
  And the glory of Your people Israel.”


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