Comment by Harborough churches: It might be Groundhog Day - but there is hope for us all
Viewpoint by the Rev. Andy Murphy, Methodist Minister in Market Harborough, Kibworth and Naseby, and Vice-chair of Churches Together in Harborough.
As I write this article, it’s Groundhog Day.
Groundhog Day is an annual tradition in the USA. Every February 2, the superstition goes that if a groundhog emerges from its hole and sees its shadow (because of the clear sky) then there will be six more weeks of winter, and the groundhog retreats back into its hole. But, if it sees no shadow, then it could be an early Spring! I had never heard of Groundhog Day until I went to the cinema in 1993 and saw what would become one of my favourite movies ever.
In the movie, Bill Murray plays a weatherman reporting from a small Pennsylvanian town, who gets stuck in the snow and is forced to extend his trip. But he wakes to find the next day is also Groundhog Day, and the day after, and the day after. He relives the same February 2 hundreds of times, but to everyone around him the day is new.
Because of the film, the phrase ‘Groundhog Day’ now has a different meaning. It means to live a humdrum existence where every day is the same as the last, going through the motions. But that’s only the starting point of the movie. In fact, Bill Murray’s character goes through a series of responses to his situation: from denial and anger, though bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. By the end of it, he has learned to accept the people of the town for who they are, and to make the most of what’s available to him in that day. That’s when the monotony ends and real life begins for him again, and by then he’s a different person.
I wonder how many of us would describe our present experience as being like ‘Groundhog Day’? I know I have. As this pandemic has gone on and on, with various dashed hopes along the way, we might have started to wonder whether we will ever get out of it. But, I don’t think we need groundhogs to tell us that this winter will not go on for ever.
In the Church, February 2 is also celebrated as Candlemas, where candles are lit as signs of hope.
It’s when we remember the story of the young Jesus being presented at the temple and meeting two adoring old people, Anna and Simeon, whose lives had until then been spent in the monotony of waiting for hope to arrive. They were poor and their city was under an oppressive regime, but they finally found hope in that child. They saw it with their own eyes.
Maybe in our ‘Groundhog Day’ pandemic, we might be able find in the present something to make each day count. Or, if not yet, maybe we could look at the countless children who have borne this thing with such acceptance and bravery, and see there the hope of many better days to come.
By the Rev. Andy Murphy is Methodist Minister in Market Harborough, Kibworth and Naseby, and Vice-chair of Churches Together in Harborough.