Romans 8:35,37 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (NIV)
I live in Wiarton, Ontario, Canada, the home of "Wiarton Willie" an albino groundhog. Each February 2nd, they wake the poor creature up so that the mayor can speak "groundhogese" to this critter and find out if there will be an early spring.
This started out as a joke back in 1957 when a man invited a bunch of his close friends over for a party, to break up the winter.
Even a Toronto newspaper sent a reporter up to see what was going on. When the reporter asked about the groundhog, the man grabbed a ladies' white fur hat, threw it out on the snow, and made the first prediction. We now have statues in our park on the way into town and stuffed toys of "Willie" in almost every store because of this first get-together.
What began as a fun morning prediction at 8:07 a.m. on February 2nd with pancakes afterwards has how turned into a three-day festival. However, as I talked with the new Baptist minister in town, we both identified a concern that we think has emerged: many people have started to almost idolize the groundhog. About ten years ago, when they tried to wake up Willie and found him dead, they actually had a funeral for him. I know that many communities have statues and other things to mark their town or city as unique. When I lived in Alberta, various towns had a giant buffalo, a giant Easter egg, and even a replica of a flying saucer. These are fine, but they weren't idolized by the people. I'm all for a little fun in a cold, wintry climate, but to actually idolize anything other than God is sin.
Exodus 20:3–5a – You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. (NKJV)
This command from God tells us about the nature of God. God is the supplier of all our joy, and through God, we can experience great joy no matter what situation we find ourselves in. But when we begin to idolize things rather than God, we lose our focus. When we idolize created things rather than the Creator, we commit idolatry. The second part of the command is all about idolatry. We can have authentic worship only when God is the only God we are bowing to. God and God alone is worthy of our worship. To sum things up, the first commandment requires us to love, desire, and find joy and hope solely in God, which naturally leads to an outward worship of prayer, praise, and meditation on His Word.
To join in some festivities is good, and God wants His children to have fun, but not to the point of forgetting that the fun comes from Him and that in our fun, we will glorify Him. The prediction and festivities surrounding Wiarton Willie should ultimately point us to Jesus, our God who made the seasons (hopefully an early spring) and groundhogs in the first place!
Prayer: Some love winter, and some hope for an early spring. Lord, help us to realize that You will give us what we need, not necessarily what we desire. Thank You for making the groundhog and all Your creatures. Thank You also for this chance to have some fun in a cold winter month. Amen.
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