There is an interesting tradition observed on February 2 known as Groundhog Day. The tradition began in the early 1800’s and involves predicting an early Spring or longer Winter solely based on whether the groundhog sees it’s shadow or not. Studies have shown that the accuracy of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions is somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 30%. Not a very good average but it’s a fun spectacle to watch each year in Punxsutawney, PA. In fact, this tradition has been so popular over the years that in 1993 Bill Murray starred in a film called “Groundhog Day.” The premise of the film follows Murray’s character (Phil Connors) as a newsman reluctantly covering the events of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA. As the film progresses, Phil awakens each morning to Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You Babe” as he repeats the activities of the previous day. He is caught in a loop that has him observing Groundhog Day over and over again. While the film is quite enjoyable, the real interest for me was watching Murray’s character determine to use this ‘loop’ to better himself and become a new person, a better and more compassionate member of the human race.
Do you ever wish you might have this opportunity that the movie shows us? Imagine having the opportunity to repeat a day or a series of days until you get it right? Think about all the times you wished you could just go back, where you’d do this or that differently. You would make a different decision. You would choose a different action. You would have reacted differently, if you could only do it again. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not at all certain that given those opportunities, we would really do that much better the second time around. It is almost impossible to completely re-create ourselves because we want to hang onto the very things we must lose, or let go of, in order to become better.
Yet, for the Christian, for one who believes in Jesus Christ, there is the reality of a new beginning, a new creation. The Apostle Paul, writing in 2 Corinthians 5: 17 says: So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (NAB) I call your attention to this because it is possible for us to understand that what took place in our past can be overcome and we can have a new beginning. Those times in life when we were less than we could have been and less than we should have been, can be overcome and forgiven and forgotten. The times in life when our decisions and actions were neither Christian nor kind, can be overcome and replaced with the decisions we will make because of the person we have become in Christ. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we do have the possibility of being forgiven of our past sins and beginning anew. This does not wipe away the consequences of our past actions, but it does open the way for us to move forward with hope and the assurance that our past will not be an anchor that keeps our lives from moving forward. In Christ, we are a new person. In Christ, we have hope of a new beginning. In Christ, we find the strength to change our ways and leave behind us those past actions that have perhaps haunted us as we moved forward in life.
Each and every week when we begin our worship service, we come before God and confess that we have sinned by what we have done and left undone. And then we are forgiven. This is a new beginning pronounced upon us. Entire forgiveness of all our sins is pronounced, and we begin the day and life made new and fresh. This is indeed a wonderful blessing, for it offers us the opportunity to start over, as a new person.
We are not people intended to wake up today so we can live yesterday again. We are people intended to wake up and live today in the glory and promise of Almighty God that we have been made new in Jesus Christ. Alleluia. Now let us live our lives as the forgiven children of God, made new through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yours in Christ,